The dean of students of the University of Chicago (UChicago) is warning incoming students in a letter that if they want “trigger warnings” safe spaces in their college lives, they should attend a different school.
“Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression,” Dean John Ellison says in the letter, which was posted online at Intellectual Takeout. “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship.”
Ellison then follows up with a massive rebuke of the ongoing trend at various schools to suppress and hide from opposing points of view.
“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,” he says. He then follows up by saying diversity of opinion is a “fundamental strength” of UChicago.
Along with Ellison’s message, the letter includes a short book, “Academic Freedom and the Modern University,” which describes “history of debate, and even scandal, resulting from our commitment to academic freedom.”
Ellison’s approach is in sharp contrast with that taken at another Chicago university, DePaul. A May visit by conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos descended into chaos after it was disrupted by student activists and school security refused to restore order. Later, the school banned Yiannopoulos from returning, and it also preemptively banned journalist Ben Shapiro for good measure.
Other schools have seen a rollback of free speech rights as well. California State University, Los Angeles tried to block an appearance by Shapiro and only backed down when Shapiro showed up anyway. Schools like the University of Michigan and Case Western Reserve University have announced safe spaces to protect students from unwelcome opinions. At the University of California, Santa Barbara students demanded trigger warnings for all classes, along with the right to be excused from any lessons that may “trigger” them.
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