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VOL. 76 PART 1 JANUARY 2018
ple of Hitler as an example of when it might be appropriate to contextualize
material. “This was, obviously a poorly chosen example”, he writes, “I
meant to use it to drive home a point about context by saying here was
material that would definitely need to be contextualized rather than presented
neutrally, and instead I implied that Dr. Peterson is like Hitler,
which is untrue and not my intention.”
It should be obvious that but for the recording, there would be no apologies
coming forward from Laurier University or from Dr. Rambukkana. Ms.
Shepherd would likely have been censured and one only hopes she would
have appealed such an outcome—sadly, a wrong that would have cost her
money, stress and time to right. What is most disturbing about the entire
scenario is the idea that an institution would compel its students to hold
specific beliefs at all. Being neutral in discussing the topic of gender-neutral
pronouns was “kind of the problem” to the institution. They wanted to compel
their student to hold a specific view on such matters.
Can you imagine if you, as a lawyer, were compelled to make a statement
on your views about such matters? Imagine being beholden to institutional
thought. Imagine that institution compelling you to make a specific statement
on an annual basis confirming your principled agreement with their
position even if you disagreed with it. That is not something you or I currently
have to deal with, unless you are a member of the Law Society of
Upper Canada, or whatever it is calling itself these days. Do not think for a
moment that compelled speech is not something to be wary of. Compelled
speech is compelled belief, and in universities (as well as the democracies
they operate within) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression
ought to prevail. When it comes to the institutions we are members of, let
us all be as brave and determined as Lindsay Shepherd. Otherwise we don’t
stand a chance.
1. Quoted in Ivana Edwards, “The Essence of
‘Kafkaesque’”, The New York Times (29 December
1991), online: <www.nytimes.com/1991/
2. Online: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YdFlKaJv4g>.
3. Wilfrid Laurier University, “Apology from Laurier
President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy”
(21 November 2017), online: <www.wlu.ca/news/
4. Open letter from Nathan Rambukkana to Lindsay
Shepherd (21 November 2017), online: <www.