The Outlaw Lindsay Shepherd

Shepherd - Tyler Anderson, National Post.png

Yesterday Wilfrid Laurier University president Deborah MacLatchy issued a statement about the Lindsay Shepherd débacle, promising "some clarity" on the matter now that the report of the "external fact-finder" is complete. The fact-finding report itself has not been published. MacLatchy's statement is all the clarity we're going to get, at least until the university's task force on freedom of expression reports in March. To her credit, MacLatchy has exonerated Shepherd without qualification. Shepherd's 43-minute interrogation at the hands of two tenured Laurier professors and an equity-and-diversity officer "should never have happened at all."

The key sentence in MacLatchy's statement follows. "No formal complaint, nor informal concern relative to a Laurier policy, was registered about the screening of the [TVO] video." 

For anyone who has been following the case closely, this revelation will come as a bombshell. At 4:50 in the interrogation recording, an emotional Shepherd asks her supervisor how many students complained about her tutorial. "How many? Who? One?" she pleads. "I have no concept of how many people complained. You have not shown me the complaint." The supervisor replies. "It's one or multiple students who have come forward saying that this is something that they were concerned about and that it made them uncomfortable." He then goes on to suggest that if the (non-existent) complainant was transgender, Shepherd tormented him/her by fostering a debate on whether "a trans student should have rights within one of their classes." MacLatchy's statement, in other words, reveals that the claims of Shepherd's inquisitors were not mere "errors in judgement," as she puts it. Whether intentional or not, it now appears that the case against Shepherd was a tissue of lies. There was no complaint. There was no injury to anyone in the tutorial, real or imagined. Shepherd's palpable anxiety about the welfare of her students can be laid to rest without caveat.

The rest of MacLatchy's statement is predictably anodyne. Laurier remains an "incredible 106-year-old institution," she writes. The Shepherd imbroglio has created "opportunities" for the university to "work together as a community" and "demonstrate the strengths we have as an institution." Procedures and policies will be clarified and strengthened. Laurier will "enhance the training and support for both TA supervisors and teaching assistants, making these mandatory and standardized." Shepherd's professionalism was unimpeachable. Yet she, her T.A. peers and any number of senior Laurier faculty will now undergo involuntary reeducation. "Free expression and academic freedom at the university require accompanying responsibilities and accountabilities to be met by members of the university community," according to MacLatchy.

And so ends the Ballad of the Outlaw Lindsay Shepherd—with a full presidential pardon and a once-tranquil Canadian campus in tatters.