How do trigger warnings fit into academia?

April 10, 2014

Trigger warnings have become a controversial topic in higher education, with both sides of the argument vehemently defending their position. Ohio’s Oberlin College recently introduced a policy asking faculty members to “be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression,” and to make so-called triggering material optional or to remove it entirely. The student senate at the University of California-Santa Barbara also passed an advisory motion asking faculty to include warnings to course syllabi. While some educators see this as an attack on academic freedom, a “very dangerous form of censorship,” and a move to protect today’s sensitive students, others argue that including trigger warnings and contextualizing course material is a way to “to facilitate students’ learning, which includes fostering an environment in which students feel safe exploring topics that are intellectually, and possibly emotionally, challenging.” CBC |Globe and Mail | Chronicle of Higher Education | Chronicle-Vitae | The Daily Caller


Postscript: April 15, 2014

Ohio’s Oberlin College has retracted the extensive trigger warning policy recently published in its Sexual Offense Resource Guide, pending additional faculty input. The policy received much attention from within and without the institution, with some voices in support of the policy and some against; faculty members said “it had been drafted largely without their input, even though they stood on the front lines of such a policy.” “This section of the resource guide is currently under revision, after thoughtful discussion on campus suggested that some changes could make the guide more useful for faculty,” said Meredith Raimondo, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and co-Chair of the Sexual Offense Policy Task Force. Inside Higher Ed