Incoming freshmen at the University of Chicago received a letter from the dean of students this summer that was far from the standard welcome package.
In the letter, Dean John Ellison hails the college’s “commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression,” and tells students not to expect trigger warnings or safe spaces on their campus.
"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," Ellison wrote.
“Trigger warnings” refer to the practice of professors warning students of potentially upsetting material coming up in their classes, especially when it pertains to traumatic life events such as sexual assault of suicide attempts. “Safe spaces” are places for marginalized groups to gather and escape from mainstream culture.
Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro explained the purpose of safe spaces in a January op-ed for the Washington Post.
"I'm an economist, not a sociologist or psychologist, but those experts tell me that students don't fully embrace uncomfortable learning unless they are themselves comfortable," he wrote. "The irony, it seems, is that the best hope we have of creating an inclusive community is to first create spaces where members of each group feel safe.”
While college officials may debate the merits of trigger warnings via op-eds and formal letters, others took to a more accessible medium to hash it out: Twitter.