Wilfrid Laurier University has formally cleared a teaching assistant of doing anything improper in using a debate video in class has set off a major dispute about academic freedom in Canada. The video debate was about the use of nontraditional pronouns by some transgender people. The teaching assistant, Lindsay Shepherd, didn’t endorse a position in the debate but she was interrogated by superiors who suggested she violated university anti-bias rules by showing the debate video. When a recording of her grilling became public, many become outraged by what they saw as a violation of Shepherd’s academic freedom — and the university announced an inquiry into what happened.
On Monday, Deborah MacLatchy, president and vice chancellor of the university, announced the results of that investigation, completely clearing Shepherd and raising questions about the conduct of those who questioned her.
“There was no wrongdoing on the part of Ms. Shepherd in showing the clip…. Showing [the] clip for the purposes of an academic discussion is a reasonable classroom teaching tool,” said MacLatchy’s summery of the investigation. Further, MacLatchy said that “it has been made clear to those who were involved in the meeting with Ms. Shepherd that their conduct does not meet the high standards I set for staff and faculty.”