Top College to Freshmen: Don't Expect Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings

University of Chicago letter to students says school supports academic freedom
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2016 2:21 PM CDT
Top College to Freshmen: Don't Expect Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings
The University of Chicago campus is shown here.   (Wikimedia Commons)

The controversial concept of "safe spaces" on college campuses—a place where members of a marginalized group can feel secure and able to express themselves—has grabbed the media's attention over the last year, spurred by such high-profile cases as the racial strife at the University of Missouri and a recent want ad posted by a black student at a California college seeking a non-white roommate. But those heading to the University of Chicago this fall shouldn't expect such accommodations, according to a letter sent to incoming freshmen, Inside Higher Ed reports. Although John Ellison, the school's dean of students, says in the letter that no one should be harassed, the university is committed to "freedom of inquiry and expression" and students should be prepared that in a collegial environment, they may sometimes feel challenged and be exposed to a certain level of "discomfort."

Toward that end, per Ellison: The university won't support safe spaces or "trigger warnings" on provocative topics (both terms that Quartz says have become "nebulous") and has no intention of turning away speakers from campus if their ideas are polarizing. The Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, documents three incidents that happened during the 2016 spring semester in which speakers invited to the school had to end their speeches or endure protester disruptions during their appearances. The paper also notes that reaction to Ellison's letter has been mixed on social media, with some saying they applaud the college's support for academic freedom—"It's about time that someone stood up against this PC nonsense!" reads one comment on the Maroon article—while others say the school's attitude toward supposedly "open" dialogue can serve as a cover for hate speech. (More colleges and universities stories.)

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