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Biting Commentary

'Trigger warning' fired at coddled 'safe-spacers'

By Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR

Originally Posted

Girl with hands over eyes in see-no-evil pose, apparently afraid of disagreeable ideas In a letter to incoming freshmen, University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison directly challenged, and likely traumatized, the frail and sheltered and coddled, while reassuring the sensible:

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

Disagreeable ideas


Adds a report issued by the university's Committee on Freedom of Expression, "It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community."

According to the Chicago Tribune, University of Minnesota media ethics and law professor Jane Kirtley called the University of Chicago's move "refreshing."

The Tribune says, "She said colleges should resist setting limits on what views and opinions are acceptable to air in open forum and should encourage students to discuss things they find uncomfortable. ... 'If listening to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to make your blood pressure go up 400 points, then fine, don't listen to them. But that doesn't mean you can say we can't have Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton speaking on campus because it would be offensive to even know they were talking.'"

Purdue University has endorsed these principles, as has, in general, the University of Wisconsin, of all places.

In a 2014 report, the American Association of University Professors gave their own "trigger warning":  "Trigger warnings suggest that classrooms should offer protection and comfort rather than an intellectually challenging education. They reduce students to vulnerable victims rather than full participants in the intellectual process of education."

Week-kneed institutions

Of course, many weak-kneed institutions wring their hands over such academic- and speech-freedom issues, needing places for students (who apparently have nothing more intellectually stimulating to do than shout down speakers and administrators) to recuperate from disagreeable ideas. A sampling includes DePaul, Rutgers, Brown, Yale, Amhurst, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Claremont, and even Kansas and Missouri -- aha! a couple of Midwestern schools!

There are more -- many more -- schools that decry intellectual stimulation and challenge, but you get the idea. 

Frankly, we're fatigued from searching.

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