Transcript: Academic Freedom at Laurier | Nov 30, 2017

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, pale pink shirt, and lilac tie.

A caption on screen reads "Academic freedom at Laurier. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says OVER THE PAST FEW
MONTHS, ISSUES SURROUNDING FREE
SPEECH HAVE GRIPPED CAMPUSES
ACROSS NORTH AMERICA.
AND ONTARIO ISN'T IMMUNE.
IT STARTED WHEN A TEACHING
ASSISTANT AT WILFRID LAURIER
UNIVERSITY NAMED LINDSAY
SHEPHERD PLAYED AN EXCERPT OF
THIS PROGRAM IN HER CLASS.
THE CLIP FEATURED AN EXCHANGE
BETWEEN UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
PROFESSORS JORDAN PETERSON AND
NICHOLAS MATTE ON THE USE OF
GENDER-NEUTRAL PRONOUNS.
ONE OR MORE STUDENTS IN THE
LAURIER CLASS COMPLAINED THAT
PLAYING THAT EXCERPT MADE THEM
FEEL UNSAFE, AND THEY LET SENIOR
STAFF KNOW IT.
THE NEXT THING LINDSAY SHEPHERD
KNEW, THREE STAFFERS TOOK HER
INTO A PRIVATE MEETING WHICH
WENT PUBLIC, CRITICIZED HER FOR
PLAYING THE CLIP WITH NO
CONTEXT, AND SUGGESTED SHE MAY
HAVE EVEN BROKEN FEDERAL LAW.
THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE END OF
IT ALL, EXCEPT SHEPHERD RECORDED
THE CONVERSATION.
THAT WENT PUBLIC, PROMPTING A
FIRESTORM OF REACTION FROM MANY
WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED TO FREE
SPEECH ON UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES.
DEBORAH MacLATCHY IS THE
PRESIDENT AND VICE-CHANCELLOR AT
LAURIER, AND SHE JOINS US NOW IN
HOPES OF CLARIFYING THIS STORY.

Deborah is in her forties, with wavy blond hair to her shoulders. She's wearing glasses and a burgundy tailored suit.

Steve continues First of all, thank you for
braving the 401 to get here.
I know it takes an awfully long
time.
Thanks for coming in.
On the chance that some of our
viewers have not heard part of
the exchange that went on for
many, many minutes between
Lindsay Shepherd and the three
staffers that were in that
meeting, we want to roll a
little excerpt of that and then
we'll come back and chat.
Sheldon, if you would?

A recording plays with the caption "Voice of Nathan Rambukkana."

Subtitles read:
Do you see how this is not something that is intellectually neutral?
That is kind of up for debate? I mean, this is the Charter of rights and freedoms.

A female voice replies. The caption changes to "Voice of Lindsay Shepherd."

Lindsay says But it is up for debate.

Nathan says But you're perfectly welcome to you own opinions.
But when you're bringing it into the context of the classroom, that can become problematic.
And that can become something that creates an unsafe learning environment for students.

Lindsay says But when they leave the university they are going to be exposed to these ideas so I don't see how I'm doing a disservice to the class by exposing them to ideas that are really out there.

The clip ends.

Steve says A SMALL SNIPPET OF A
MUCH LONGER CONVERSATION.
FIRST QUESTION: IN YOUR VIEW,
DID LINDSAY SHEPHERD DO ANYTHING WRONG?

The caption changes to "Deborah MacLatchy. Wilfrid Laurier University."
Then, it changes again to "The TA versus the University."

Deborah says I WOULD
LIKE TO START BY SAYING THAT
THIS REALLY IS AN UNFORTUNATE
INCIDENT THAT HAS BROUGHT A
REALLY IMPORTANT DISCUSSION TO
THE FOREFRONT, AND NOT ONLY FOR
UNIVERSITIES, BUT FOR THE
BROADER PUBLIC AS WELL.
I CAN'T SPEAK TO WHAT HAPPENED
IN THE CLASSROOM, BECAUSE I
WASN'T THERE, AND I THINK REALLY
THE DISCUSSION ABOUT WHAT
HAPPENS IN THE CLASSROOM IS NOT
JUST ONLY ABOUT THE MATERIAL
THAT IS PRESENTED BUT HOW IT'S
PRESENTED.
SO OUR INSTRUCTORS ARE PROTECTED
BY ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND FREEDOM
OF EXPRESSION, BUT WITH ACADEMIC
FREEDOM COMES RESPONSIBILITIES,
AND THAT INCLUDES ENSURING THAT
MATERIAL THAT'S PRESENTED IS
EVIDENCE-BASED, THAT IT'S BEEN
CRITICALLY REVIEWED, THAT IT'S
BEEN ANALYSED IN A WAY THAT WHEN
IT'S PRESENTED AND DISCUSSED
WITH THE STUDENTS, THAT THEY
UNDERSTAND WHAT THE SCHOLARLY
UNDERPINNING IS.

Steve says DID LINDSAY FAIL THAT TEST?

Deborah says I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN
THAT CLASSROOM, AND SO THAT IS
WHY THE UNIVERSITY IS
UNDERTAKING A FACT-FINDING...
THIRD PARTY FACT-FINDING
ACTIVITY IN ORDER TO BETTER
UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED IN THE
CLASSROOM.

Steve says YOU HAVE
SUBSEQUENTLY PUT UP A VIDEO ON
THE WILFRID LAURIER WEBSITE,
WHICH YOU SAY YOU SUPPORT
FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNEQUIVOCALLY.
DID THE UNIVERSITY MEET THAT
TEST THAT YOU YOURSELF HAVE
EXPRESSED IN THIS SITUATION?

Deborah says DON'T KNOW, AGAIN, BECAUSE IT
WASN'T IN THE CLASSROOM...

Steve says BUT YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

Deborah says I THINK THAT THERE'S AN
OPPORTUNITY FOR CHALLENGING
MATERIAL TO BE PRESENTED AND
THAT, YES, THAT WILL MAKE...
PERHAPS COULD MAKE STUDENTS
UNCOMFORTABLE AND OFTENTIMES
UNCOMFORTABLE DOES LEAD TO
LEARNING.
BUT THERE'S A RESPONSIBILITY
THAT THAT DISCOURSE IN THE
CLASSROOM BE CIVIL, THAT IT
PROTECTS STUDENTS' HUMAN RIGHTS,
AND THAT IT'S NOT INTOLERANT AND
THAT NOTHING IN THE CLASS IS
USED TO DEMEAN STUDENTS OR THEIR
PERCEPTIONS OF THE MATERIAL...

Steve says DO YOU HAVE ANY
REASON TO BELIEVE THAT ANY OF
THAT HAPPENED HERE?

Deborah says I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN
THE CLASSROOM.

Steve says I'M GOING TO SKIP
THE NEXT THREE QUESTIONS THEN
BECAUSE THEY'RE KIND OF ALONG
THAT LINES.
LET'S GO TO THIS, THEN: DO YOUR
PROFESSORS RECEIVE ANY TRAINING
OR BRIEFINGS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH
CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE FREE
EXPRESSION MY COLLIDE WITH
STUDENTS FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE
OR UNSAFE DEALING WITH VARIOUS TOPICS?

The caption changes to "Teaching the professors."

Deborah says YES, CERTAINLY, AND PART OF
WHAT EVERY UNIVERSITY DOES, NOT
JUST LAURIER, A LOT OF US HAVE
TEACHING AND LEARNING CENTRES
WHERE WE HAVE EXPERTS IN DEALING
WITH THESE AREAS.
WE HOLD WORKSHOPS IN WHICH
THERE'S PEER-TO-PEER TRAINING
AND DISCUSSION AMONGST FACULTY
ABOUT DEALING WITH THESE ITEMS
THAT CAN BE... THAT ARE
CONTROVERSIAL.

Steve says DO YOU KNOW WHETHER
YOUR OFFICE OR ANY SENIOR
OFFICIAL WHO WORKS FOR YOU IN
THIS CASE HAS SENT OUT A MEMO OR
A NEW DIRECTIVE TO ACADEMIC
STAFF SAYING, HERE'S WHAT WE DID HERE.
HERE'S WHERE IT DIDN'T WORK.
AND HERE'S WHAT WE'VE GOT TO DO
GOING FORWARD?
ANYTHING LIKE THAT?

Deborah says WE'RE CONTINUING TO WORK
THROUGH THIS PROCESS.
PART OF HAVING THE THIRD PARTY
FACT-FINDER IS TO PROVIDE US
WITH A REVIEW OF WHAT HAPPENED
BUT ALSO RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW
TO IMPROVE OUR PROCESSES.
AND CERTAINLY I KNOW FROM
NOTICES THAT I'M GETTING JUST IN
MY INBOX, THAT WE DO HAVE A
NUMBER OF SCHEDULED WORKSHOPS
THAT WERE ALREADY IN PROGRESS
BEFORE THIS INCIDENT, JUST TO
TALK ABOUT HOW DO OUR
INSTRUCTORS BE THE BEST
INSTRUCTORS THAT THEY CAN, EVEN
WHEN COVERING VERY CONTROVERSIAL
SUBJECTS, INCLUDING, YOU KNOW,
GENDER PRONOUNS, INDIGENOUS
CONCERNS, MUSLIM VIEWS OF THE
WORLD, AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS
THAT THE UNIVERSITY DOES EVERY
SINGLE DAY BETWEEN OUR FACULTY
AND OUR STUDENTS AND HAS TO BE
DONE IN A WAY THAT ALLOWS THAT
FREE DISCOURSE TO HAPPEN, BUT IN
A WAY THAT CONTINUES TO ENSURE
THAT HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE
STUDENTS ARE PROTECTED.

Steve says WELL, THAT'S THE
THING, AND I GUESS... IN A WAY,
IT'S KIND OF GOOD THAT THIS
HAPPENED... NOT FOR YOU, I'M
SURE... BUT THAT IT HAPPENED
BECAUSE IT'S PROMPTING A
DISCUSSION ABOUT WHERE THAT SORT
OF SWEET SPOT IS BETWEEN FREEDOM
OF EXPRESSION AND RESPECTING THE
DIVERSE NEEDS OF VARIOUS
STUDENTS.
BUT I GUESS EVERYONE IS
WONDERING, ACADEMIC AND STUDENTS
ALIKE, IF A STUDENT COMES
FORWARD NOW AND SAYS WE DID THIS
IN CLASS, IT REALLY MADE ME FEEL
UNCOMFORTABLE, A TEACHER OR A
T.A. KIND OF OFFENDED ME WITH
THIS KIND OF CONTENT, I'M
LODGING A COMPLAINT.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW, IF THAT HAPPENS?

The caption changes to "Deborah MacLatchy, @PresMacLatchy."

Deborah says WELL, AS I SAID, BEING ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT WE'VE PUT IN
PLACE... OR I HAVEN'T SAID THAT
YET.
WE HAVE A TASK FORCE THAT WE ARE
GOING TO BE FURTHERING OUR
ABILITY TO CONSULT AND DISCUSS
THESE ISSUES AT THE UNIVERSITY.
THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY HERE FOR
LAURIER TO SHOW LEADERSHIP
AMONGST OTHER UNIVERSITIES IN
THESE DISCUSSIONS THAT ARE
HAPPENING NOT JUST AT LAURIER
BUT AT EVERY UNIVERSITY.
CERTAINLY I'VE BEEN QUITE CLEAR
THAT UNCOMFORTABLE DOES NOT MEAN
THAT A STUDENT HAS... THAT
THERE'S BEEN A LINE CROSSED IN
THE CLASSROOM, AND THAT IS WHAT
WE CONTINUE EVERY DAY AT
UNIVERSITIES TO BETTER
UNDERSTAND.
WHAT TOOLS AND WHAT SKILLS DO
OUR FACULTY NEED TO BE ABLE TO
HAVE THESE VERY CHALLENGING
CONVERSATIONS WHICH GO TO THE
VERY HEART OF THE TYPE OF
SOCIETY THAT WE ARE, IN A WAY
THAT ENCOURAGES THE
PARTICIPATION OF EVERYONE IN THE
CLASS.

Steve says I THINK THAT'S WHAT
WE NEED TO KNOW.
ARE FACULTY STILL ALLOWED TO
CHALLENGE STUDENTS?

Deborah says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says ARE THEY ALLOWED TO
PROVOKE STUDENTS?
ARE THEY ALLOWED TO OFFEND
STUDENTS?

Deborah says THEIR JOB IS TO PROVOKE AND
TO CONTINUE TO HAVE STUDENTS'
MINDS OPEN TO DIFFERENT IDEAS.
THAT INCLUDES DISCOURSE
HAPPENING WITHIN THE CLASSROOM...

Steve says OFFENDING CAN HAPPEN
CIVILLY, RIGHT?
AND THAT'S OKAY STILL?

Deborah says AND PART OF WHAT WE WANT TO
BE ABLE TO DO IS THEN PUT THE
APPROPRIATE PROCESS IN PLACE SO
THAT THOSE CONVERSATIONS CAN BE
HAD BETWEEN, FOR EXAMPLE, A
FACULTY MEMBER AND A STUDENT IN
THE APPROPRIATE FORM.
ALL FACULTY THAT I KNOW HOPE
THAT IF THE STUDENT WAS
OFFENDED, TO USE YOUR LANGUAGE,
IN A CLASSROOM, THAT THE STUDENT
WOULD BE ABLE TO COME TO THE
FACULTY MEMBER TO DISCUSS THIS
IN A WAY THAT THERE COULD
CONTINUE TO BE LEARNING GOING ON
AND THAT THAT RELATIONSHIP CAN
CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD.
SO JUST TO REITERATE, THESE
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HAPPEN
EVERY SINGLE DAY IN EVERY SINGLE
CLASSROOM IS DEALING WITH THESE
CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES AND, YOU
KNOW, WE REALLY WANT TO DEVELOP
OUR FACULTY AND OUR STUDENTS IN
A WAY THAT THEY'RE ABLE TO HAVE
THESE CONVERSATIONS.

Steve says I'VE GOT SIX
QUESTIONS LEFT AND FOUR MINUTES.
I'M GOING TO TRY TO RACE THROUGH THESE.
ANY PUNISHMENT TO THE THREE
STAFF INVOLVED IN THIS?

Deborah says WE'RE WORKING THROUGH OUR
EXTERNAL THIRD PARTY FACT-FINDER
TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED AND
THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS AND THEN
WE WILL WORK FROM THE
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THAT PROCESS.

Steve says ARE YOU CONCERNED
THAT MS. SHEPHERD MAY LAUNCH A
WORKPLACE HARASSMENT OR
WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION SUIT
AGAINST YOU BECAUSE OF THE
TREATMENT SHE RECEIVED?

Deborah says I THINK AS A STUDENT THE
POLICIES OF THE UNIVERSITY AND
THE BROADER POLICIES OF THE...
ARE IN EFFECT AND SO SHE WILL
NEED TO FOLLOW HER OWN... TAKE
HER OWN ADVICE ON WHERE TO GO ON THAT.

Steve says THERE HAVE BEEN
SEVERAL PETITIONS PUT FORWARD
AROUND THIS INCIDENT BUT THERE
WAS ONE IN PARTICULAR SIGNED BY
A GROUP OF ABOUT 60 PROFESSORS
WHO SAY THEY, ALONG WITH
STUDENTS, HAVE BEEN THREATENED,
AND THEY ARE CONCERNED THAT NOT
ENOUGH IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT
THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY.
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO ADDRESS THOSE
CONCERNS?

The caption changes to "The future at WLU."

Deborah says OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS
THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF OUR
STUDENTS AND OUR EMPLOYEES.
WE ARE WORKING VERY CLOSELY WITH
STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF THAT
COME FORWARD WITH CONCERNS, TO
ENSURE THAT THEIR SAFETY
CONTINUES TO BE SOMETHING THAT
WE'RE EFFECTIVELY LOOKING AT.

Steve says YOU'RE TALKING
PHYSICAL SAFETY IN THIS CASE?

Deborah says PHYSICAL... PHYSICAL SAFETY
FOR SURE, AS WELL AS DOING WHAT
WE CAN TO SUPPORT THEM FROM
BEING BOMBARDED BY SOCIAL MEDIA
OR OTHER IMPACTS THAT THIS HAS HAD.

Steve says YOU DID OFFER AN
APOLOGY TO THE TEACHING
ASSISTANT IN QUESTION, MISS
SHEPHERD, AND HERE IS HOW SHE
RESPONDED TO THAT.
SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Lindsay Shepherd. November 24, 2017."
In the clip, Lindsay talks in a television studio. She's in her twenties with long brown hair.

She says UNFORTUNATELY THE POLICY,
ALTHOUGH IT'S A STEP IN THE
RIGHT DIRECTION, THEY WERE KIND
OF MAKING IT SEEM THAT THIS WAS
AN ISSUE OF T.A. TRAINING OR
MENTORSHIP OR LIKE MAYBE I
HADN'T BEEN TRAINED PROPERLY,
WHEN REALLY THAT'S SUCH A
DISTRACTION FROM THE REAL ISSUE,
WHICH IS THAT THIS WAS A
42-MINUTE MEETING BASED ON THEM
TELLING ME THAT I'M NOT ALLOWED
TO LET STUDENTS HAVE CERTAIN VIEWS.

The clip ends.

Steve says IT SOUNDS LIKE SHE'S
NOT THRILLED WITH THE APOLOGY
AND IN ANOTHER PIECE OF VIDEO
SHE SORT OF ALLEGED THAT YOU
WERE APOLOGIZING BECAUSE DONORS
WERE THREATENING TO PULL MONEY
OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY.
IS THAT TRUE?

Deborah says ABSOLUTELY NOT.
OUR SUPPORT FROM OUR DONORS AND
ALUMNI HAS BEEN TREMENDOUS
THROUGH THIS IN THAT THEY
UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS AN
ISOLATED INCIDENT.
IT DOES NOT REALLY REFLECT
LAURIER AS A UNIVERSITY.
I WOULD SAY THAT MY APOLOGY TO
LINDSAY ABOUT HOW SHE WAS
TREATED IN THAT MEETING IS
UNEQUIVOCAL, THAT SHE DESERVED
AN APOLOGY.

Steve says AND THE PROFESSOR
GAVE ONE AS WELL?

Deborah says AND THE PROFESSOR GAVE HER
ONE AS WELL.

Steve says YEAH.
HOW... I MEAN, SHE STILL IS,
THIS IS NATHAN'S T.A.
HOW IS THAT RELATIONSHIP GOING
TO GO FORWARD NOW?

Deborah says THEY CONTINUE TO WORK
TOGETHER...

Steve says REALLY?
HOW CAN THEY STILL WORK TOGETHER?

Deborah says AND CONTINUE TO FOLLOW THE
REGULAR SCHEDULE OF TUTORIALS
THAT HAVE BEEN SET FOR THE CLASS.

Steve says ONE LAST THING: WHAT
DO YOU THINK THIS EPISODE HAS
DONE TO LAURIER'S REPUTATION?

Deborah says I THINK IT REALLY GIVES US AN
OPPORTUNITY TO, AS I SAID,
DEVELOP LEADERSHIP IN THIS AREA.
I THINK WHAT HAS HAPPENED AT
LAURIER REPRESENTS AN ONGOING
DISCUSSION THAT'S HAPPENING NOT
ONLY AT LAURIER BUT AT OTHER
UNIVERSITIES AND THERE'S A REAL
OPPORTUNITY TO CONTINUE TO GO
FORWARD.
AS I SAID, WHAT WE DO EVERY DAY
AT LAURIER... WE'RE NUMBER ONE
IN STUDENT SATISFACTION IN
MACLEANS BECAUSE OF THE GREAT
SUPPORTS THAT WE HAVE FOR OUR
STUDENTS, THE GREAT EDUCATIONAL
OPPORTUNITY THAT THEY HAVE...

Steve says HAS YOUR REPUTATION
TAKEN A HIT OVER THIS, THOUGH?

Deborah says THIS ONE UNDERSTAND DENT DOES
NOT REFLECT LAURIER.
PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO SEE
THERE'S A REAL OPPORTUNITY FOR
DISCUSSION HERE AND THAT IT'S
NOT ABOUT LAURIER.

The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin; Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor."

Steve says I LIKE THE WAY
YOU'RE TRYING TO FIND OF BRIGHT
SIDE OF THIS.
UNDERSTOOD.
WE'LL LEAVE IT THERE.
WE HAVE ANOTHER WHOLE SEGMENT
DEBATING SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT
HAVE EMERGED FROM THIS.
I'LL THANK DEBORAH MacLATCHY,
THE VICE CHANCELLOR OF LAURIER,
FOR COMING IN TONIGHT.

Watch: Academic Freedom at Laurier