Photo by Mariah Wilson

Provost says U of C stance on trigger warnings “similar to the University of Chicago’s”

By Tina Shaygan, March 21 2018 —

The University of Calgary provost Dru Marshall says the school’s stance regarding trigger warnings is “similar to the University of Chicago’s.”

Last year, the University of Chicago sent a letter to its incoming class saying their campus is a place to “debate ideas” and that they do not support “so-called trigger warnings.”

“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,” the University of Chicago letter read.

According to Time magazine, a trigger warning is an “advance notice about subject material that may be difficult for certain students to read, hear or see.”  

Time magazine explains that trigger warnings are “often used at least with the stated attempt of avoiding inflicting further trauma on victims, particularly those of sexual assault.” It adds that trigger warnings “have also been criticized as means of preventing students and lecturers from exploring difficult issues together.”

During a discussion regarding academic freedom at the March 16 Board of Governors meeting, Marshall said that a current understanding of academic freedom is “quite different from its original intention and has extended to things like criticism of administration — which [the University of Calgary] doesn’t shy away from.”

“We would prefer to go to the University of Chicago style where we encourage places to be uncomfortable and use that as an opportunity to grow,” Marshall said at the meeting.

The University of Calgary could not be reached for an interview and instead provided a statement.

“The concept of freedom of speech is a foundational principle of all great universities. The University of Calgary is committed to fostering an environment of free inquiry, open debate and diversity of opinions. The university supports students or others sharing their views about subjects — including those that are controversial — in a safe and respectful manner,” the statement read.

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