10 V O L . 7 6 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 8 THE ADVOCATE
It was not until Ms. Shepherd had the good sense to go to the media with
the recording2—and it should be noted that throughout the ensuing publicity
she remained articulate, thoughtful and professional—that the university
decided an apology from the president and vice-chancellor was in
order.3 Her supervisor, who led the charge against her, Assistant Professor
Nathan Rambukkana, also issued a public apology of sorts.4 We shall return
to this matter below.
Listening to the recording is chilling. It is not surprising, but it is chilling.
Outgunned and outnumbered, Ms. Shepherd asserts and reasserts herself
against the bizarre barrage (replete with references to Hitler) that rains
down on her from two male faculty members while the manager of Gendered
Violence Prevention and Support, Adria Joel, stands by. Told she is in
violation of the policy, the Canadian Human Rights Code, the Ontario
Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Ms.
Shepherd, a petite 22-year-old, is remarkably resilient and articulate in
what is clearly a terribly stressful situation.
Rather near the beginning of the meeting Dr. Rambukkana tells Ms.
Shepherd that she has “created a toxic climate” for students by screening a
video in a seminar for first-year communications students. The video was
an episode of The Agenda, an OntarioTV program hosted by Steve Paikin.
The program featured controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan
Peterson, who presented his case against the use of non-gendered English
pronouns such as “xe”, “xer” and the singular “they”. The program also
included a panel discussion where the opposite viewpoint was espoused.
The dark irony throughout all of this is that Ms. Shepherd, who was leading
the discussion on grammar usage in a neutral manner (as would be
expected of a graduate tutor), does not share Dr. Peterson’s views.
The meeting got off to a dubious start with the following exchange:
Shepherd: Obviously this person the complainant who had an issue did
not express it to me, they just went straight to whoever, I don’t know what
Rambukkana: Just for some additional context, so, you came from U of
T, is that right?
Shepherd: No, SFU.
Rambukkana: From SFU, okay. So you weren’t, like, one of Jordan Peterson’s
Dr. Rambukkana more or less starts the whole process by assuming that
Ms. Shepherd is a protégé of Dr. Peterson. It is not relevant to his inquiry as
to where Ms. Shepherd came from, but nowhere in the interview does he
appear to be seeking information. Rather, he appears to be offended by the
notion that Dr. Peterson’s views should be shared at all; he is suspicious