On Trigger Warnings

ACADEME BLOG

This report was drafted by a subcommittee of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in August 2014 and has been approved by Committee A.


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…

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