Teach­ing as­sis­tant su­ing Wil­frid Lau­rier

Lind­say Shep­herd files state­ment of claim against univer­sity over al­leged “in­qui­si­tion”

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — A teach­ing as­sis­tant is su­ing her univer­sity af­ter be­ing dis­ci­plined for show­ing stu­dents a TV pro­gram fea­tur­ing a con­tro­ver­sial pro­fes­sor dis­cussing gen­der-neu­tral pro­nouns.

In an un­proven state­ment of claim filed this week, Lind­say Shep­herd says Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity behaved neg­li­gently, leav­ing her un­em­ploy­able in academia.

The suit, not tested in any court of law, names the school in Water­loo, Ont., two pro­fes­sors, and a man­ager of the univer­sity’s di­ver­sity and eq­uity of­fice. It seeks a to­tal of $3.6 mil­lion in var­i­ous dam­ages.

“The con­duct of the de­fen­dants was ob­jec­tively out­ra­geous and fla­grant,” the suit al­leges. “They had reck­less dis­re­gard for the fact that the fore­see­able con­se­quences of their con­duct would cause Shep­herd to suf­fer emo­tional stress — which it did.”

Wil­frid Lau­rier has yet to file a state­ment of de­fence and a spokesper­son had no im­me­di­ate com­ment. The two pro­fes­sors named in the suit did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment and the man­ager in the univer­sity’s di­ver­sity and eq­uity of­fice could not im­me­di­ately be reached.

The is­sue arose in Novem­ber, when Shep­herd screened a TVOn­tario pro­gram for her class in which Jor­dan Peter­son, a now promi­nent au­thor and psy­chol­o­gist, de­fended his an­tipa­thy at hav­ing to use gen­der-neu­tral pro­nouns.

The fol­low­ing day, Shep­herd was called to a meet­ing she calls an “in­qui­si­tion” with Nathan Ram­bukkana, the pro­fes­sor un­der whom Shep­herd was work­ing; Her­bert Pim­lott, a pro­gram co-or­di­na­tor; and Adria Joel, who was in charge of the di­ver­sity and eq­uity of­fice.

“All three lam­basted Shep­herd, vi­ciously at­tack­ing her per­son­ally, falsely al­leg­ing that there had been a com­plaint or com­plaints about her tu­to­rial, and in­sist­ing that, in play­ing the TVOn­tario clip, she had been threat­en­ing to her stu­dents,” Shep­herd’s suit al­leges.

“At var­i­ous points, dur­ing that al­most hour long vi­cious and abu­sive at­tack, Shep­herd was re­duced to tears,” ac­cord­ing to the suit.

Shep­herd recorded the meet­ing, lead­ing to wide­spread public anger at her treat­ment when she made the record­ing public.

Af­ter the out­cry erupted, the univer­sity’s pres­i­dent apol­o­gized to her, say­ing there had been an “in­sti­tu­tional fail­ure,” that Shep­herd had done noth­ing wrong, and the school was tak­ing steps to en­sure sim­i­lar events did not re­cur.

How­ever, Shep­herd main­tains she has re­ceived no re­dress, and in fact has been sub­jected to “con­tin­u­ing abuse and a toxic cli­mate from the univer­sity and its rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” ac­cord­ing to her state­ment of claim.

The suit al­leges the school failed to fol­low its own poli­cies, and that at­tacks on her by “preda­tors” amounted to ha­rass­ment, in­ten­tional in­flic­tion of ner­vous shock and con­struc­tive dis­missal.

Shep­herd was not im­me­di­ately avail­able to com­ment on Tues­day but her Toronto-based lawyer, Howard Le­vitt, dis­missed the univer­sity pres­i­dent’s apol­ogy to her as mean­ing­less.

“It was only when public clam­our be­came what it was and peo­ple were as out­raged as they were that she fi­nally apol­o­gized,” Le­vitt said. “It wasn’t seen as a gen­uine apol­ogy.”


Lind­say Shep­herd poses for a pho­to­graph at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity in Water­loo, Ont., on Wed­nes­day.

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