THE ISSUE: The University of Chicago’s Dean of Students, Jay Ellison, wrote a letter to members of the incoming class of 2020. In it, he warned them that the school’s commitment to academic freedom means it does not support trigger warnings. Here, editorial board members share their thoughts on the letter. You can find the other viewpoint here.
While Jay Ellison’s statement doesn’t outright ban trigger warnings, it goes a long way in condemning the practice. He goes on to say the school does “not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
Would it have hurt Ellison to mention that he’s registered in the university’s Safe Space Ally Network for LGBTQ students?
He also said the school will not cancel controversial speakers. In 2015, protestors disrupted UC’s Alumni Awards, prompting the event’s cancellation.
In March, the UNC College Republicans hosted “The Left’s Obsession with Race” with speaker Ben Shapiro. Though it wasn’t canceled, dozens of protesters left just as Shapiro began speaking. To be upfront, I didn’t go — I skimmed his YouTube channel, saw a barrage of militant, misguided racism and calmly decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
I get that it’s important to learn from different ideologies, but Ellison has to acknowledge that protestors don’t force the university to cancel events. They use their freedom of expression to organize, challenge and denounce. It’s up to the school to listen to their needs or shut it down.
As a student with PTSD who engages in activism and edits the opinion page, I encounter offensive things every day. I don’t silence the people who say things I vehemently disagree with, but I challenge them without resorting to slurs or condescension.
When people say politically correct behavior caters to a coddled generation, it does trigger something in me. It’s not anger, but a resignation I should be too young to feel.
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