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U. Chicago Profs Defy Administration on Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings

U. Chicago Profs Defy Administration on Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings

“legitimate topics for discussion”

The University of Chicago’s refreshing position on free speech vs. safe spaces is being undermined by some members of the faculty.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Chicago Professors Fire Back

More than 150 faculty members at the University of Chicago on Tuesday published an open letter to freshmen in which they take a strikingly different approach from the official communication sent by a Chicago dean. Safe spaces and trigger warnings, the letter said, are legitimate topics for discussion and reflect the real needs of many students.

The earlier letter — much debated in recent weeks — was from John Ellison, dean of students. He told incoming students not to expect what many of their peers elsewhere may have. “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,” wrote Ellison. He has since been hailed as a hero for free expression and denounced as out of touch and insensitive — with his letter becoming a Rorschach test for how one views higher education.

The faculty letter was published in the student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. The letter doesn’t say that trigger warnings or safe spaces are inherently good or bad. But it says that students have every right to request these things — and that discouraging students from doing so represents a squelching of freedom of expression.

“Those of us who have signed this letter have a variety of opinions about requests for trigger warnings and safe spaces,” the letter says. “We may also disagree as to whether free speech is ever legitimately interrupted by concrete pressures of the political.


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