December 14, 2018

BY TYLER MEDEIROS

Late last year Wilfrid Laurier University finally apologized to Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant who aired a clip of a gender-pronoun debate. Shepherd was harshly criticized by her peers for showing the clip featuring outspoken University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson in her tutorials and not immediately condemning his views.

Shepherd showed the video as part of a communications tutorial. She did this to spark a debate around the issue so that the students could see that some of the problems were because gender pronouns are part of English’s fundamental grammatical structure.

Shepherd was hauled in to a meeting by her superior and other colleagues where she was harshly criticized for airing the clip.

Shepherd was basically called a supporter of Adolf Hitler during this meeting.

The fact that Laurier University administrators didn’t apologize until there was heavy media coverage of the event is wrong. I believe that if Shepherd did not take her story to the media and instead stayed quiet the university would have had no problem with the harsh actions that Shepherd’s peers took against her.

Shepherd was criticized after a student complained about not feeling safe in that class. The fact that this class is about being able to communicate your stance on an issue makes the whole situation absurd.

It is not OK for the university to say you can’t debate and discuss specific issues and you must think a certain way. This is basically taking away free speech and free thinking. This kind of heavy censorship can lead to groupthink – when everyone must think the exact same way or else they are wrong and harshly criticized for it.

Everyone should be able to have their own opinion on gender and the use of gender pronouns and in Shepherd’s case she does not agree with Peterson’s statements and supports the use of preferred pronouns.

Shepherd has been speaking at different universities to spread the message of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But most importantly she talks about the importance of students being able to form their own opinions without being told what the proper way to think is.

I agree with the message that Shepherd is trying to spread and I hope that nothing like this ever happens at Conestoga College because the ability and freedom to express ourselves is what democracy is all about.

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