This letter about trigger warnings & safe spaces? In my view, it's not at all motivated by actual concern about TWs and safe spaces.— Tyler Kissinger (@tylerbkissinger) August 25, 2016
Continuing our series of comments from the University of Chicago community regarding Dean John Ellison’s letter, some alumni and students have expressed that the move smelled, at least partially, like a publicity stunt.
From one current University of Chicago student, who hints that the administration has been trying to change the image of those beloved strange “dark” days of the school I remember so well:
To me, the whole situation reads as a poorly conceived publicity stunt. The University is in this strange moment where its undergrad exclusivity has recently shot up, and it seems to want to do everything it can to bolster its reputation. The College also attempting to rebrand through ditching the doom-and-gloom masochism tone of prior decades and attempting to court a reputation of Fun, Exciting Academic Rigor.
However, this all leaves the College without a coherent identity, and the admins pinned their hopes on riding the 2014-2015 wave of think pieces on the matter, which would allow them to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the Millennial bogeyman’s perceived censorship problem, hostility toward the ivory tower, and the massive moderate frustrated by youth movements in general. It certainly doesn’t represent any actual policy change: the University has explicitly said that this is not a blanket ban on trigger warnings, but that it still allows professors to choose what to do at their discretion.
I have no idea whether it worked. It will have appealed to those forces I mentioned, but of course will also drive away prospective students involved in the social-justice community.
From another alum:
Have you ever actually had a lesson plan or discussion section disrupted because students claimed they felt “triggered” by the material?
Sometimes I find the language and the logic of the “trigger warning” a bit stultifying, but really that’s only in the abstract because no one has ever actually invoked it. I can count the number of times a student has asked to take a step back from a set of readings or a specific conversation on one hand, and then it’s with ample, generous explanation and always when we were dealing with genuinely disturbing material.