Is The Smart Phone The Answer to Workplace Bullying?

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An audio recorder brings disciplinary actions into the open.

My local newspaper recently lit up about the Wilfred Laurier scandal in which well-intentioned teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd got slammed by her supervising professor for sharing a three-minute video clip from TVO’s public affairs show “The Agenda”, with her 1st year Communications students.

The clip showed two university professors offering opposing views on the the gender debate. Shepherd insisted she was trying to create a safe space to discuss differing views in the ongoing discussion about gender rights, but her superiors called her “transphobic” (it means a dislike of people who do not conform to society’s gender expectations) and accused her of “creating a toxic climate”. He even equated her actions to showing videos of Adolph Hitler’s speeches.

          “This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler,” 

                                  Nathan Rambukkana,

                                  Wilfrid Laurier University


Many pundits were aghast that the university would be such bullies to a TA trying to do the right thing. But what transpired with Lindsay Shepherd should not come as a surprise to anyone. Our academic culture in this country is controlled by a top down management model that ranges from blind obedience to informed acquiescence. They use bullying methods and threats of contract termination if you don’t follow their moral direction and do what you are told.

The interesting thing about this story is that Lindsay recorded it on her smart phone. This story would have gone nowhere if not for the foresight to click on the audio recorder and keep the whole interaction as transparent as possible. Bullies hate transparency; it takes away their ability to push their own agenda or use their position to intimidate staff. It forces them to do what is right versus do what they want, or what their boss wants.

Bullies also often hide behind policies in order to drive their agenda rather than be willing to enter into an intelligent discussion on the purpose of our institutes of higher learning. They accused her of violating the school’s Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy, potentially resulting in gender-based violence and harm to trans students, as well as falsely claiming she had violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The university has since offered an apology, more about how things unfolded than for what was intended…the stifling of free speech in our universities. Shepherd appreciated the apology, but also noted, “They never offered a long-term solution. Yes, they did some damage control, they offered some apologies but they never made a long-term commitment.”

The university has announced a task force to look into the matter. Sadly, that task force will likely focus on staff members bringing smart phones into disciplinary meetings rather than dealing with the bullies and mean spirited micro-managers that dominate our academic institutions and are intent on pushing their ideological agenda rather than creating a learning environment that fosters humility and understanding.

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