Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AAUP: On Trigger Warnings

A current threat to academic freedom in the classroom comes from a demand that teachers provide warnings in advance if assigned material contains anything that might trigger difficult emotional responses for students.  This follows from earlier calls not to offend students’ sensibilities by introducing material that challenges their values and beliefs.  The specific call for “trigger warnings” began in the blogosphere as a caution about graphic descriptions of rape on feminist sites, and has now migrated to university campuses in the form of requirements or proposals that students be alerted to all manner of topics that some believe may deeply offend and even set off a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) response in some individuals.  Oberlin College’s original policy (since tabled to allow for further debate in the face of faculty opposition) is an example of the range of possible trigger topics: “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression.”   It went on to say that a novel like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart might “trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.”  It further cautioned faculty to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”
Source: American Association of University Professors

Read full report on the AAUP site

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