Trigger Warnings, Campus Speech, and the Right to Not Be Offended

Try Our New Player
  • About
  • Export
  • Add to
"It's really not anyone else's business to tell someone when
they are mentally and emotionally ready to deal with things," says
Bailey Loverin, a University of Santa Barbara (UCSB) junior who

authored a resolution to mandate that professors issue "trigger
warnings" before presenting material that might trigger memories of
past traumas in students.Feminist and social justice blogs popularized the concept of the
trigger warning, with writers encouraging each other to label posts
that might trigger flashbacks to sexual assault or domestic abuse.
As the popularity, and scope, of the trigger warning idea grew,
some bloggers began listing potential
triggers, ranging from rape and violence and suicide to snakes
and needles and even "small
holes."Oberlin College attracted media attention when its
Office of Equity Concerns posted, and
later removed, a trigger warning guide advising professors to
avoid triggering topics such as racism, colonialism, and sexism
when possible. The memo also suggests introducing discussions of
potentially triggering works with language such as this:We are reading this work in spite of the author’s racist
frameworks because his work was foundational to establishing the
field of anthropology, and because I think together we can
challenge, deconstruct, and learn from his mistakes.Loverin says that her trigger warning resolution is much more
narrowly tailored to protect sufferers of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). But she also goes a step further than anyone has
at Oberlin by proposing that trigger warnings in the classroom be
mandated."I don't feel that it's a problem asking for this to be
mandated," says Loverin. "You're always going to have someone
that's going to argue, 'Why? This is ridiculous. I shouldn't have
to do this because I don't feel it. Why should anyone else?'"Loverin's resolution passed the student-run Academic Senate and
now awaits review by the faculty legislative body. Greg Lukianoff,
President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
(FIRE), worries that mandated
trigger warnings would set a troubling precedent on campus. He
points to an incident that
occured on the UCBS campus only days after the resolution
passed wherein an associate professor of feminist studies stole a
sign from pro-life protesters and then pushed one of them away when
she tried to take the sign back. The professor's defense?"What she argued was that the display was triggering," says
Lukianoff. "It's a very unforunate part of human nature. If you
give us an excuse to shut down speech with which we disagree, we're
very quick to see it as an opportunity."For the full story, watch the video above. Approximately 5
minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning.Scroll down for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube
channel for daily content like this.
Video provided by Reason TV
Producer : Reason TV