More articles on Trigger Warnings and the University of Chicago

I’ve seen a few more articles pop up on the topic, all of them interesting in various ways:

–A generally thoughtful article by Cameron Okeke on what “safe spaces” at U Chicago actually mean to those who use them, and how their existence helped him survive casual racism at the institution. Key sentence: “But you do not get our “diversity” without safe spaces, trigger warnings, or some institutionalized form of respect for people with different experiences.” He goes on to make a number of great points, but unfortunately sets up “the babblings of rich, white, cis, straight men” as the opposite of the ideal, which sounds a bit off-base to me.

–An article in the WSJ (surprise surprise) by the University of Chicago’s president Robert Zimmer, basically running with the University’s definition of “safe space” and “trigger warning” as meaning students filing complaints at having to learn about things they don’t want to learn about (which, as I’ve explained before, is accurate to an extent, just not nearly as much as conservatives like to claim it is). [paywalled, so you’ll have to do a google search on it and access it via Google]

–And finally Emma Pettit, in the CHE, describes how three professors actually use trigger warnings in classes. Each professor uses them mostly to deal with trauma, or when covering texts and images that can rightly be considered traumatic. It reflects my own practice, particularly when teaching the history of warfare, or just history in general (the other day, for example, we discussed the Rape of Lucretia as a founding myth of the Roman Republic).

But I also agree with Professor Reineke that “something that offends and something that traumatizes are not the same.” And it is worth remembering that the AAUP, in August 2014, delivered a preliminary report on trigger warnings in which the context was a creeping, and very expanded, definition of “trauma” to include the kind of tabling of ideas that the University of Chicago was objecting to.

In any case, I kind of feel that both sides are mostly talking past each other, and will only emerge from this more convinced in the utter righteousness of their positions. Because we are all righteous people…


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