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Bill Kelly: A victory for free speech at Laurier University

Wilfrid Laurier graduate student happy university apologized but wanted more long-term change
Wilfrid Laurier graduate student and teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd is happy with the apology from the university but feels the administration could have done more to change policy.

The good news is that Wilfrid Laurier University has finally apologized to teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd; the bad news is, they did it for all the wrong reasons.

Shepherd was vilified and berated by university staff for showing a video to her class of controversial professor Jordan Peterson, who is an outspoken opponent of transgender rights.

But as university staff ganged up on Shepherd, where they even accused her of promoting Peterson’s homophobic views, they were unaware that she taped the inquisition-like meeting.

LISTEN: Excerpts from secretly recorded meeting between Wilfrid Laurier University grad student and faculty
Extended: Excerpts from secretly recorded meeting between Wilfrid Laurier University grad student and faculty
Extended: Excerpts from secretly recorded meeting between Wilfrid Laurier University grad student and faculty

 

That tape went viral on social media and national newscasts and the public outrage about the university’s treatment of Shepherd was overwhelming.

WATCH: Laurier University ‘should be so fundamentally embarrassed’: Lawyer Howard Levitt

Laurier University ‘should be so fundamentally embarrassed’: Lawyer Howard Levitt
Laurier University ‘should be so fundamentally embarrassed’: Lawyer Howard Levitt

Bowing to that outrage, the university apologized to Shepherd, but the hollow apology is too little too late.

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READ MORE: Andrew Scheer: Laurier university controversy highlights larger issue of ‘stifling’ free speech

It was English historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall who coined the phrase, “I disagree with your opinion, but I will defend to the death your right to state your opinion.” Sadly, that hallmark of free speech was lost on the faculty at Laurier University.

Universities should provide a platform for an exchange of contrary ideas to create a dialogue and debate on those issues.

READ MORE: Laurier university’s handling of freedom of expression ‘inexcusable’: prof

Free speech isn’t always comfortable, but it’s necessary in our society.

It took a teaching assistant at Laurier University to teach the faculty at that university that very important lesson.

Bill Kelly is the host of Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML.