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Jordan Peterson launches defamation suit against university in order to preserve academic freedom
Jordan Peterson has filed a second defamation lawsuit against Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Jordan Peterson launches defamation suit against university in order to preserve academic freedom

Best-selling author, Canadian college professor, and quasi-cultural messiah Jordan Peterson is in the process of launching his second lawsuit against a college who he says defamed him — but it's not because he can't handle criticism.

It's because he believes that free speech and academic freedom should remain free and that the individual's right to differing opinions should be upheld.

What led up to this?

Peterson first sued Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, over a 2017 incident in which teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd played a clip of Peterson during a communications class. The clip was Peterson's take on the use of nonbinary gender pronouns.

Shepherd's superiors castigated her for showing what students considered to be offensive footage of the controversial figure. Without her superiors' knowledge, Shepherd recorded the meeting and released it to the media.

During the exchange between Shepherd and her employers, the university compared playing footage of Peterson similar to playing footage of Adolf Hitler. The college also said that Shepherd was "transphobic" because she didn't denounce Peterson's push to stop using gender-neutral pronouns.

You can listen to the audio in the player below.

The innocuous act of Shepherd showing Peterson footage resulted in not just a suit from Peterson, but one from Shepherd as well. Shepherd sued the university for about $3.6 million because she said that the school effectively made her "unemployable in academia." Peterson's initial lawsuit sought $1.5 million over the Hitler-related remarks.

Shepherd said that she simply used the footage as a part of lesson to the students, as the class focused on the complexities of grammar, according to The Toronto Star.

Though the university ultimately apologized to Shepherd for the way it treated her behind closed doors, she still opted to sue the university.

After Peterson filed his first suit in June, the university went on to say that he'd benefited from the media circus that surrounded the first suit.

In response to the university's remarks, Peterson filed a second defamation suit because the university accused him of benefiting from the previous lawsuit.

What's happening now?

Peterson filed the paperwork for the latest suit last week and is seeking $1.75 million in damages.

Peterson's latest suit says that the college's claim that Peterson benefited from the initial controversy is no different than saying that "those who survived the Holocaust should be grateful to their oppressors for teaching them survival skills."

The school criticized Peterson's lawsuit as an attempt to cause "academics and administrators to be more circumspect in their choice of words" and "a means of unduly limiting expression on matters of public interest," the National Post reported.

According to The National Post, Peterson's lawyer, Howard Levitt, expects that both lawsuits will be rolled into one, and court documents noted that Peterson hopes the end result of the suits is freer campus speech and expression.

"[Peterson] was trying to prevent people, in closed-door sessions, from viciously demonizing a student, and himself, when they try to have an academic discussion and suppress her academic freedom," Levitt said. "He wants to make sure that professors simply won’t conduct themselves that way; that they not be so politically correct that they won’t allow anyone to have any other view without being attacked."

The school says it will fight Peterson's second suit as hard as it did the first suit.

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