Trigger Warnings


In the early 1930’s a “student organization” at the University of Chicago invited William Z. Foster, the “Communist Party’s” candidate for President, to give a “lecture” on campus.

Not surprisingly, the event sparked “outrage and criticism,” both at the school and around the country.


In response the school’s president, Robert M. Hutchins said, “our students . . . should have freedom to discuss any problem that presents itself” and said the “cure” for ideas we oppose “lies through open discussion rather than through inhibition.”

On a later occasion, Hutchins added that, “free inquiry is indispensable to the good life, that universities exist for the sake of such inquiry, and that without it they cease to be universities.”

A lot has “changed” in the past 80 years. Today, for example, a candidate for the “Republican Party” is more likely to be “banned” from speaking on a college campus than would be a candidate for the “Communist Party.”

But one thing has remained the same: “many students, and some professors, are uncomfortable with the idea that colleges and universities should be bastions of free inquiry.”


Over the past “five” years we’ve heard a lot about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”

“Triggers warnings” are written warnings to “alert” students in advance that material “assigned” in a course might be “upsetting or offensive.”

And “safe spaces” are, as Judith Shulevitz says, the “live-action version” of trigger warnings.

A prime example, per Shulevitz, was when at Brown University. When a speaker came to present research and facts about “the role of culture in sexual assault,” students at Brown set up a “safe space” equipped with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.”

The room wasn’t for people who had been “traumatized by an actual assault” but to provide “comfort” to those who were “traumatized” by those who were “offended” by the content of the speech.


As one student said, she had to return to the “safe space” because, “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.”

Unlike many other “elite” schools, the University of Chicago has chosen not to “protect” students from idea they may find “offensive.”

In 2014 UC appointed a “Committee on Freedom of Expression” to help the school “develop” policies for promoting “free and open” discourse.

One result has been a letter that the school sent out to “freshman” students:

“Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

While many conservatives will “cheer” the school’s bold stance, we shouldn’t forget that too many Christian students want to be “coddled” also.


A survey by the “National Coalition Against Censorship” found that many professors report offering “warnings” for the sake of conservative or religious students:

“I used trigger warnings to warn about foul or sexual language, sexual content, or violence in order to allow our very conservative students to feel more in control of the material,” wrote one instructor.

In fact, many respondents commented about warnings to address religious sensitivities. A respondent who teaches and holds an administrative post reports receiving “many complaints, some with parental involvement. These have mostly been religious objections.” . . . Another explained that “the trigger warnings that I place in my general education Humanities course syllabus have to do with religious and moral content that might be offensive to persons who are zealous about their particular faith.” Yet another observed that “the Bible … is a topic that can offend both fundamentalists and those who are not comfortable with religion.” There was even a “Rastafarian student [who] was very offended at my comparison of Akhenaten’s Great Hymn to Psalm 104.”

Rather than “joining” the left in trying to “ban” certain ideas from campuses, conservative Christians should “teach” their children how to “navigate” a world that often “disagrees with our beliefs and values.”


In this video, Matthew Woessner, a political science professor at Penn State Harrisburg, offers some “tips” on how we might do turn the “challenges” conservative students face into an “opportunity for growth.”

Conservative students are vastly “outnumbered” on campus, and their “beliefs and values” are often “ridiculed” by other students, professors and administrators.

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