Bravo to the University of Chicago

From the University of Chicago letter welcoming students:

…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….


Yep. I hope they are not the last to push back.

That certainly makes Princesston look sissy.

Good for them. We need to teach our society how to disagree civilly again. Now everything is "war on", "a battle for", etc. Can't we all just assume the other side has good intent?

Yep. The silver lining of Trump might be that both sides wake up to the fact that he's what you get when the fighting gets too intense and ridiculous. Maybe this is the high water mark for that crap. I'm not holding my breath, but it's possible.

I see it differently. He is the only politician in a long time to say what he thinks rather than what polls well. He is part of the pushback against PCness.

Hillary should ensure that Trump get thoroughly investigated when she wins! Enough of these billionaire tyrants trying to suppress the will of the free thinking USians.

'Can’t we all just assume the other side has good intent?'

Some of these debates have nothing to do with intent. Young earth creationists simply reject the underlying framework of much current scientific understanding in areas such as biology or geology, and those young earth creationists who also support intelligent design are notable for attempting to place their theological musings in classrooms while also attempting to keep evolution out of them.

And almost ironically, young earth creationists remain fully devoted to creating intellectual safe spaces, ones where their children never learn of evolution accept when it is condemned as a false belief.

In the Philippines, Baptists are numerous, and some that I know (as well as in Virginia) honestly think Bishop Usher is right and the earth is 6-7k years old. I have no problem with that, as long as it's considered religion. I'm not sure most Baptists make such distinctions, but a while ago a geology PhD was allowed to graduate despite being a Young Earth creationist, since professionally he made such a distinction.

A mutual assumption of bad/evil intent definitely flavors the young earth debate.

Anyone who believes in Intelligent design has not examined the prostate gland.

It's almost as if you think young earth creationists are a significant influence in the U.S. Maybe you need to get back every once in a while.

Just Saying says "Can’t we all just assume the other side has good intent?"

pa responds.

The universe is working.

Most kids taught in Christian schools, or homeschooled by Christian parents like myself, have a better understanding of evolution and the debate between evolution and creation than public schooled kids. Why? Because Christian schooling includes teaching on both, from both a biblical and scientific perspective. I teach in the public school system and the whole educational atmosphere in our schools is saturated exclusively with evolution - it is simply the default position with no real opposing view allowed. Healthy debate or discussion just does not happen - it is not allowed.

Any time I engage with a colleague on this issue, the discussion goes nowhere because as soon as I begin to discuss the necessity of logical, coherent foundations to the dialogue, they are incapable of proceeding. They simply throw up their arms and slide away to their own "intellectual safe space". They are mostly incapable of intelligently defending their position and/or they know nothing about the creationist position. They also do not have any interest in hearing the creationist position, End of discussion.

You should check out the vast array of highly qualified scientists and philosophers of science who are also creationists - you might just be surprised at not only their credentials, but also their reasons for their beliefs.

The array of scientists who are evolutionists is far vaster, though, Mr Dixon - and (I would submit) more distinguished at its apex.

Should schools also offer alternative perspectives on what happens when you put sodium in water, or the existence of vitamins?

Best regards from the UK,
David Hirst

Mr. Hirst,
Thank you for your response to my note.

I would say that both of your opening points: "The array of scientists who are evolutionist is far vaster", and "more distinguished at its apex" are simply irrelevant points on proving evolution or creation.

The number who agree on a position does not, necessarily, make that viewpoint valid. There are more Christians in the world than any other religion (slowly being overtaken by Islam), and does that mean that Christianity is, for that reason, the truth (I would personally not take that position, though I am a Christian who believes that Christianity is the only true religion - numbers do not determine truth)?

And certainly there are many different ways to evaluate who is at the "apex", whatever that means. Does "apex" mean - the ones who have the, seemingly, most prominent positions in universities or government? Or does it mean the ones who have contributed most to scientific research and thought? Historically, before Darwin, many of the greatest contributors to scientific thought and advancement were creationists. And which evolutionists are the prominent ones? There are numerous theories of evolution, since so much of Darwin's theories has either been proven false or has not been proven at all because of lack of evidence. Both evolution and creation are not monolithic categories - they both have numerous different strands of followings. Which strand, and which proponents, are the ones at the "apex"?

There are other arguments against both your "numbers" and "apex" approaches to determining truth, but I must keep this note at some sort of reasonable length.

What we must agree on is that both evolution and creation are believed on by faith. The scientific method does not scientifically "prove" evolution. And - the Bible does not scientifically "prove" creation! Your examples of "sodium in water" and "existence of vitamins" are scientific experiments or observations that can be proven empirically, using scientific methods of investigation. Evolution cannot be proven empirically because there are no examples of evolution that would support the Darwinian view of evolution, and evolution has never been observed. What I do observe is design, even intelligent design.

So if I simply observe what is in front of me (that is scientific!), then apply scientific and logical methods of investigation, I can begin to formulate an hypothesis on the origin of the universe and the development of life.

I am sure that you will submit some response to this note. I look forward to it. I appreciated the non-confrontational tone of your response to my first note. We creationists are used to name-calling and ad hominem character assassination, which usually means that the name-caller really does not have a reasonable argument.

From Canada to the UK - have a good day:)
Paul Dixon

Can’t we all just assume the other side has good intent?

No, because Harold Pollock is one man and the rest of them don't.

Good ol' Art, part of the solution as usual.


Although I expect Jay Ellison's future will be very rocky. Still bravo to him for standing up to these thugs.

It's good to see some diversification in the educational market.

While I applaud the invitation of controversial speakers, and appropriate forums to debate their merit and worth in full rigour, I find it hard to contemplate how a "trigger warning" is censorship?

It's just a label, it's not preventing anything or forbidding anything?

Once you establish the norm of demanding trigger warnings for any damn thing, you get to retroactively criticize and punish people who didn't have a warning for your claimed trigger. Thus, chilling of speech, thus censorship.

That's a bit of a stretch, if you don't mind my incredulity.

Isn't the censorship not the trigger itself, but the act of punishment that comes *maybe* later down your causality chain?

Wasn't there a situation where chalking the word Trump on sidewalks and walls was considered triggering and there was a huge fuss? It was stupid and ridiculous, but in fact it was a very nasty form of thought control.

I challenge you to live with someone with OCD for a few weeks and see whether you change your behavior in response to the over the top reactions that characterize the illness. The demands for trigger warnings are not too different, and it will have an effect on how things are discussed, and what is discussed.

I heard someone who had various bad experiences say that she considered it her responsibility to heal, not the responsibility of others to structure their lives and speech around her difficulties.

Aren't you confounding two separate ideas: Triggering from sidewalks, and Trigger Warnings on sources?

The sidewalk issue could certainly be seen to be an attempt to protest a protest or some sort, I don't pretend to understand Trump for/againsters.

It isn't the responsibility of others to structure their behaviour around other people. But it could be considered nice and considerate.

"That’s a bit of a stretch, if you don’t mind my incredulity"

I do mind your incredulity! Your not believing something I believe has triggered extreme anxiety and flashbacks to the trauma of the red marks my abusive teacher put on my papers when disagreeing with me.

The problem is normalizing the expectation that there be trigger warnings, outside of very specific types ("Oh my gosh, this book that's otherwise about high-frequency trading graphically describes a rape on page 53!"), creates an environment where retroactive criticism for lack of trigger warnings has potential bite.

In that environment, people self-censor, as they do whenever they expect to be routinely second-guessed.

I don't see the problem with trigger warnings. In real life nobody makes you read shit that is potentially upsetting. You don't have to watch Game of Thrones to do well at your job.

@lemmy caution

As a Medical Doctor my job requires reading many potentially upsetting things.

Taken to the extreme it implies anything is to be hidden until proper warnings are given. Certain subjects, and in these environments where it is encouraged a very long one, can only be brought up, discussed, even seen only in certain circumstances where those who choose to be triggered can have ample warning.

I fail to see how this isn't censorship.

Anything taken to extreme can be anything. I agree. At extremes charging money for textbooks is censorship which stifles academic freedom.

But to be devils advocate for a moment - the real world, do we really need to make a big deal of this? Surely a laissez-faire approach would be to wait until there is some concrete form of failure before making a crusade of it. If people express a desire for warnings, and there is no harm shown from them, then why are we screaming censorship?

Dont we have an easy win to increase the utility of a subsection of students at practically no cost?

"It’s just a label, it’s not preventing anything or forbidding anything?"

It most certainly is a requirement that you must preface your opinion with a warning. I have a suggestion: before you say hello to anyone tomorrow, preface your greeting with this sentence as a warning: "I am a jerk. Please forgive me." Now, that doesn't forbid anything or prevent anything, does it?

Can't have freedom of expression by saying people can't express the desire for trigger warnings.

Films are rated for 'sexual violence' and 'adult themes', but I don't need to go around saying "Hi, I'm llengib, I'm rated suitable for children 8 and up (it's the nappies I hate)".

Censorship would be where the films are banned, not because they are rated.

You're a jerk and I forgive you


I'm in good company, thanks.

I don't think he said you can't express the desire for trigger warnings, in fact I think it's clear that he is happy for there to be a debate about trigger warnings. But he's the President of the school and he has decided there will be none because they stifle speech. I get your point, but I think he has one too.

This is nonsense. First, trigger warnings demand an accurate Theory of Mind be held by the speaker for each member of his/her audience. Second, it demands that any utterance be scripted out in advance, and that that script be adhered to absolutely. Neither is feasible. He seems less than honest in confronting the point that requiring a preamble (label) is a form of censorship. Customs, politeness, and legal behavior don't have sharp boundaries, attempting to impose them is a fool's game. Equal protection demands a "one size fits all" approach which can not help but impose it's own societal and individual harm. What I'd like to see is those fellows who approve of such "labels" include a preamble in their own speech - at the start of any topic, and at any change of topic. Something along the lines of "I believe in trigger warnings, and I request you modify your language to comply with my expectations. What do you think of this weather, huh?"

John Milton would disagree:

"For to distrust the judgement and the honesty of one who hath but a common repute in learning and never yet offended, as not to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor or examiner, lest he should drop a schism or something of corruption, is the greatest displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him."

"the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties"

If there is a trigger warning, you are provided additional knowledge. More knowledge is good, right?

If a teacher wants to take offence at the student wanting to be more informed, then I think that it is not the students problem, but the professors.

Trigger warnings are not something the students discuss after reading the book, that the professor "takes offence" about. They are things students demand be placed on the books before they will read them. It is unreasonable to ask the professor to do this, which itself seems an impossible task since who can know what will trigger someone?

"If there is a trigger warning, you are provided additional knowledge."

It would certainly tell me something about the closed-minded bigotry of the person who put it there, but I don't think that was the type of "knowledge" that Milton was arguing for.

The thing about trigger warnings that you fail to note is that they are used as a *preface* to the arguments of others. The idea of the person providing such preface is not to encourage reading or listening to another person's argument, but to discourage reading or listening, much less engaging on the merits (See, Cliff, who seems to understand that essential difference).. They are, in effect, pre-judgements that, even if one gets past the gateway, discourages the reader from exercising independent judgement. It is as if Tyler Cowen were to automatically insert (say, in bold red letters) immediately before all your comments (rather than in response to them), "Beware: liengib is a close-minded bigot. Proceed at your own peril"

Wow. "More knowledge is good, right?" Yes, telling all 5 year olds that daddy stuck his penis in mommy to make them is certainly "good". Telling all 7 year olds that they might get raped by the next door neighbor is "good", too - right? And telling all teenagers that most of them will be unhappily stuck in meaningless jobs is also "good". My favorite is telling the bride and groom at weddings that I wish them luck, they're going to need it with half of all marriages ending in divorce. And they DID sign a prenup, right? Where did this chump come from?

You're right. Practically, it is meaningless. But it is stated here to signal something different.

Anecdotally I approve of this.

Yeah, I agree that a lot of "trigger warnings" are no different to the warnings before some television programs here (in Australia) to the effect of "this material may contain content that is distressing to some viewers". And from what I understand from conversations with friends at university who have to deal with these sorts of issues, "distressing" doesn't always mean "my feely-feels got all hurt", or "this person strongly disagrees with me" - it's a strong psychological reaction related to someone's memories of a traumatic event, or something like that.

If the "warnings" are being used and abused by the easily-offended, then their parameters should be limited and enforced. But I don't know that they should be stopped entirely.

"how a “trigger warning” is censorship?" Mandating speech is an abridgement of the right of free speech. Next question.

The “trigger warning” is not censorship, it the requirement of a “trigger warning” that is.
I don't' think anyone has complained about someone issuing a warning.

The statement says that they "do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’". It isn't clear from this, for me at least, that they actively disallow such warnings, just that they don't support them. Indeed, forbidding trigger warnings would arguably be censorship - if I want to offer such warnings in my course, shouldn't I be able to so as an instructor?

At least a policy where they say they do not support such warnings strongly signals that they won't seek to require them, or pressure teachers to provide them, as happens in many schools. But I do think a better statement would have been to say they "do not support the requirement of trigger warnings", with perhaps some language arguing that the school believes they are a bad practice, but won't prevent teachers from providing them.

This would be a reasonable way to compromise. Professors can use discretion on whether to provide a warning, and students must accept that sometimes a professor will not do so.

You're completely right. It is obvious that issuing "trigger warning" is not disallowed, it is just not encouraged.

> I find it hard to contemplate how a “trigger warning” is censorship?

It is not.

However, the phrase "I was triggered" has become a thing, taking trigger warnings from personal responsibility ("please leave if this is material you might be upset by") to pre-emptive ("you can't do anything that might trigger someone"). This change was subtle but man, was it fast!

The idea that people should be made aware of what a course/speech/subject might contain seems perfectly reasonable and NOT censorship to me. The idea that nothing that can trigger someone can be discussed or that triggers are reason not to do something is the practical problem that has developed and needs to be stopped. "I was triggered" should be something you tell a counsellor, not use as an argument.

So, they teach evolution, the universe is roughly 14 billion years old, the US has from the beginning been horribly immoral but trying to get better, taxes are necessary for civilization and growth, life begins at birth or began more than a billion years ago, ...

Those were the subjects that led to the calls for censorship and trigger warnings in my experience.

"in my experience" LOL

You gotta tell us at which uni you experienced that...i promise to stop teasing you if you do

He probably lived through the last several decades of American history.

For example, this - '"Teach the Controversy" is a campaign, conducted by the Discovery Institute, to promote the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design, a variant of traditional creationism, while attempting to discredit the teaching of evolution in United States public high school science courses. The campaign claims that fairness and equal time requires educating students with a 'critical analysis of evolution' where "the full range of scientific views", evolution's "unresolved issues", and the "scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory" will be presented and evaluated alongside intelligent design concepts like irreducible complexity presented as a scientific argument against evolution through oblique references to books by design proponents listed in the bibliography of the Institute-proposed "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plans. The intelligent design movement and the Teach the Controversy campaign are directed and supported largely by the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank based in Seattle, Washington, United States. The overall goals of the movement were stated as "to defeat scientific materialism" and "to replace [it] with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

Ironically, it seems as if the Univ. of Chicago faculty had a hand in this too, though unintentionally - 'The term "teach the controversy" originated with Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as an admonition to teach that established knowledge is not simply given as a settled matter, but that it is created in a crucible of debate and controversy. To the chagrin of Graff, who describes himself as a liberal secularist, the idea was later appropriated by Phillip E. Johnson, Discovery Institute program advisor and father of the ID movement. Discussing the 1999-2000 Kansas State Board of Education controversy over the teaching of intelligent design in public school classrooms, Johnson wrote "What educators in Kansas and elsewhere should be doing is to 'teach the controversy'." In his book Johnson proposed casting the conflicting points of view and agendas as a scholarly controversy.'

"Ironically, it seems as if the Univ. of Chicago faculty had a hand in this too, though unintentionally"

In what way?

Umm, the University of Illinois at Chicago is not the same as the University of Chicago. Phillip Johnson (one of my former professors) taught at Berkeley.

"a professor of English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago,"

Hilarious. High water mark for muh man prior_test2.

I grew up in Football, Missouri and currently live in Bum Eff Egypt, Kansas. I do not know anyone who was actively taught the Young Earth in anything other than Sunday School. Meanwhile, I *DO* know people who think that gender is a social construct, and that there are 73+ genders, and that humans are complete blank slates with no evolutionary predispositions for anything whatsoever.

I see plenty of pseudoscience and science denial from the Left.

I got a bit carried away there. I don't know anyone who thinks there are 73+ genders, that I'm aware of. Still plenty of people who deny evolution has any effect once it reaches mankind.

It's actually 58, according to noted scientist Mark Zuckerberg. I believe scientific thinkers like Alex and Tyler concur, although I don't know if their count is exactly the same.

A Hillary! Clinton administration will find a way to interpret Title IX (or other laws) as requiring safe spaces, trigger warnings, the whole shebang, and the University of Chicago will knuckle under rather than lose federal funding. A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything away from you.

I think Clinton supports the Obama policies. Why do you think Clinton will reverse the Obama policies and side with Texas et al demanding safe spaces be used by anyone who defies government dictates on what to think they are and how to dress and act?

Yeah, Hillary! is all about mandating trigger warnings. And a lot of people are saying that she will mandate teaching of only Keynesian economics. Can you image--Hillary Clinton unilaterally mandating teaching of libtard economics once she steals the election.

Jan, your politics are so far from mine and I'm glad you're here. Some of this b.s. needs a shovel.

Bravo, too hot. It would be better for the country (yeah that much) if opposing sides could recognize bad faith arguments of their own team as the BS they are.

When HRC makes whatever title IX move she is planning in return for feminist support, will you admit that you were wrong? On the other hand, maybe you really believe that HRC won't "expand protections for women, LGBT, and minorities on campuses" and won't "act to end the rape epidemic on campus" and if so, I just have to ask why you think HRC is a hateful bigot? I mean Pres. Obama already did away with sex segregated bathrooms in public schools, won't HRC do more?

Where are all the posters supporting safe-spaces? They seem to be quite the rage, or don't people under 30 read blogs?

The 'antiPC' crowd on blogs seems magnitudes larger than the actual PC Nazi threat they decry.

Let me help you refocus.

The issue is the nonsense happening on campus across America. Oberlin and Yale spring to mind.

Or things like student protests leading to the cancellation of speeches by people like Condoleeza Rice.

A general covering of ears and shrinking into one's solipsistic bubble. College should be the opposite of this.

I couldn't agree with you more, see my posts above. I'm already plenty focused. I just think some of the PC backlash is as vocal or even more so than the phenomenon it's pushing back against.

Yes but the anti-PC backlash is a hive of fucking white males. It's pretty clear where the lines are drawn here. Unfortunately, A vote for a Democrat is a vote for chilled speech and animus toward white men. The best Democrats don't really believe this, but are willing to treat anyone fairly if they donate a couple million to a non-profit that primarily provides high paying jobs and jet rides to the politician.

Attacking trigger warnings and other campus nonsense is catnip for the ideological purists who interpret the attack as signals of a fellow traveler. Alas, the purists will be disappointed in the University of Chicago, which has a far greater devotion to diversity (of ideas) than any college or university with the safest of safe spaces. After he received his acceptance from Chicago this past Spring, I gave my Godson a copy of A Theory of Justice, my signal to him that intellectual inquiry must be broad if it is to be true. I also reminded his father of the time Justice Scalia boycotted (i.e., Scalia would not hire) Chicago Law School graduates after he took offense to an article written by a (liberal) Chicago Law School faculty member; Scalia was a graduate of Harvard but taught for many years at Chicago. Justice Scalia lifted the boycott only after the faculty member wrote a letter of apology to Scalia, confirming Scalia's erroneous belief that the University of Chicago is a safe space for the like-minded and the (liberal) faculty member's devotion to diversity (of ideas) and to his students.

I also reminded his father of the time Justice Scalia boycotted (i.e., Scalia would not hire) Chicago Law School graduates after he took offense to an article written by a (liberal) Chicago Law School faculty member; Scalia was a graduate of Harvard but taught for many years at Chicago. Justice Scalia lifted the boycott only after the faculty member wrote a letter of apology to Scalia,

Thanks. We all benefit from the transmission of urban legends.

And beware of venturing any further than that, as the University of Chicago Law School’s Geoffrey Stone did in a controversial 2007 blog post suggesting that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives likely derived their abortion views from Catholic doctrine: Scalia—a devout Catholic, and the current Court’s longest-serving conservative—announced a boycott of the school until Stone leaves the faculty.

stone sucks up to scalia pretty hard here though so???:

If Scalia "announced" that he was boycotting Chicago, it would've been easy for Lithwick to cite to that announcement. I'm guessing that no such announcement exists. Maybe Lithwick put together some clues and *inferred* that Scalia boycotted Chicago, but that's a very different assertion.

You mean trading in urban legends is bettah when Dahlia Lithwick does it?

Supreme Court’s five conservatives likely derived their abortion views from Catholic doctrine: Scalia—a devout Catholic

'Abortion views'? Does Prof. Stone honestly think you have to believe in the Real Presence and the indefectiblity of the Church or you'll inevitably buy into the notion that the 14th Amendment renders it impermissible for a state government to toss perverted gynecologists in prison where they belong?

Scott Alexander about trigger warnings:

The other thing they only do at University of Chicago? Learning.

I take it Tyler still just doesn't know enough about American university life to comment on these issues? Polish pensions, now that he knows.

Tyler has more to lose

I'm both proud and saddened about this - proud that they're pushing back against the incremental push towards thought censorship and uniformity - and saddened that the above letter even needed to be written rather than just assumed.

Class of 86

How about some special sauce to go with that sausage?

And a cheery good morning to you as well

It's lunchtime, how about a meat sandwich?

And a cheery good afternoon to you as well

Are you writing a check over this? I think you should write a check over this. I'm writing a check over this.

Yep - and enclosing a letter detailing the reason for the check.

Make sure you include a picture of your farthole.

And a cheery good morning to you as well

This is great news for fans of free inquiry everywhere. UChicago, of course. Go Maroons.

Bravo to the University of Chicago.

Am I mental or do I recall Tyler offering trigger warnings in his own course materials not long ago? Maybe it was irony or maybe Alex talked him out of the tree.

Tyler's a big fan of trigger warnings. Free expression, not so much, except for people he agrees with.

It's about time we saw some big-time political victories by conservatives. The movement can take a breather for a few months now.

Our campus opposes certain kinds of speech, because freedom of speech.

Our campus does not support speech restrictions, because freedom of speech

By all means, talk about trigger warnings and safe spaces until you are blue in the face. Fascinating topic.

Our campus opposes mandating certain kinds of speech, because doing so tends to create institutions where people are unable to learn remedial distinctions.

The market at work. Chicago is telling its admitted students,"Do you really want to go to Yale, where the Administration caves to political correctness and favors the privileged student over the typical student?"

I wish the Chicago letter would name names, but most people consider it mean. Of course, maybe Chicago should want to discourage potential students who think it's too mean to criticize wrongdoers by name.

It's like Hillsdale without the Evangelicals!

What evangelicals? Hillsdale may employ evangelicals, but it was notorious during the Roche era as a redoubt of admirers of Ayn Rand.

The evangelicals are at Grove City College. For the time being.

Apologies...clearly I'm not up to speed on what's hip in the Evangelical degree-seeking community these days.

Hip? Grove City's been an evangelical school since 1876. Hillsdale's older but it's profile as a self-consciously dissenting institution dates from perhaps 1970, IIRC.

One target of the letter is a small corps of malcontents in the student body who will clam up if they're not getting any attention. The other (and more important) target would be miscellaneous faculty members, academic department heads, and student affairs apparatchiks. Telling these people that there will be letters in their file and a loss of raises and promotions if there's trouble will encourage them to slough off the malcontents and quit pouring rubbing alcohol on open flames.

This is, of course, what you should do and what administrators at other schools will not do. Because they just don't feel like it. It's the job of the trustees to can the administrators who just do not feel like it. This they do not do, because trustees are recruited from the ranks of the world's hollow men.

They don't deny the reality. They refuse to comment on it. Discussing it is status-lowering in their workplace. (And its a less acute problem at GMU than it is most places). Scott Sumner says he's stuck his neck out contra PC at the business school where he teaches, details at 11, but never critiques it in his commentaries. That would cut into the pixels he devotes to flogging his monetary policy nostrum and complaining about Donald Trump.

They could have put in less-controversial terms. They could have simply said that universities are challenging places where ideas are discussed freely and that it is more efficient to offer this one, all-encompassing trigger warning in a welcome letter than to offer a steady barrage of trigger warnings every time faculty, staff, or students think they might have to mention a potentially disturbing idea.

"You will not get trigger warnings" is itself a trigger warning, so why didn't the university just put it out there politely and firmly and leave it at that?

I feel like everyone is always trying to explain themselves and their decisions. It courts controversy unnecessarily.

The PC Nazis need plenty of explanations though. They demand them nonstop.

They could have put in less-controversial terms.

Why bother?

I doubt the real intended audience of this letter is truly the incoming freshmen.

(Should be reply to RPLong)

Touche and good point.

It's them, but more importantly potential antiPC donors like Brian Donohue and cheesetrader above.

My guess as to intended audiences are, in order: (1) donors, as noted. (2) *future* potential applicants - U of C is saying to current high schoolers, don't apply if this bothers you. (Also do not underestimate that many potential applicants will see this as a good thing). (3) The faculty. (4) Guys who run blogs - see if we can connive some free publicity here (check). (5) The incoming freshmen.

+1, and I applaud U of C for it. I hope it sparks a trend.

Well, they will come to bended knee eventually, this letter notwithstanding. Indeed, this letter may just be for show.

Y'all are being surprisingly sweet. The inescapable impression left by pieces like Nathan Heller's bewildered Oberlin reporting for the New Yorker, is that for those students who use the term "trigger warning," triggering - er, being triggered - and grievance generally are the only reasons for their college career. Definitely a case of [trigger warning: prickly stuff, racist 19th-century text] "please don't throw me in that that brer patch."

Well, if it's whining they want, Oberlin is the right place.

I only gave the article a quick-and-dirty read at the doctor's office, but it seemed the people he interviewed were all head-case ruins, the sort who are into their emotional problems. It's a good deal easier to make your social world worse (and, perhaps, their lives worse) by succoring such people that it is to help them climb out of the boxes theyi've climbed into.

There will surely be a generational correction to all this stuff. Even its entertainment value is starting to wane. It will be remembered, perhaps, in the way goldfish-swallowing used to invoke the collegians of the twenties.
Or else there will be some harder landing.

I have taught at five college campuses--one private religious, one community college, one small, private lib-arts, one engineering school, and one large state school. I have never seen this issue come up on any of those campuses. As far as I can tell, the whole "trigger warnings" issue is a tempest in a teapot; it's the sort of thing that matters for overwrought Ivy schools, internet commenters, and people wishing to make some kind of political statement.

Anecdotal, of course, but I have literally never met a student who gave a damn. I know people who use trigger warnings. I know people who don't. It's just not a thing that people care about all that much, unless they just want an excuse to yell about something or feel smug, which is what the Chicago letter feels like to me.

Sending a letter to a bunch of undergrads isn't meant to change campus culture. It's meant to get you in the news. Which, fine--publicity and all. But to celebrate it as some kind of deeply principled stand for freedom of speech seems really silly to me, especially when the Chicago people then run around patting themselves on the back about it. Signaling is just . . . signaling.

Chicago is surely much more like an ivy school (overwrought or not) than it is like a private religious college, a community college, a small private liberal arts college, an engineering school, or a large state school.

Sounds like safe spaces for conservatives to me.

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