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University of Chicago: ‘We Do Not Support So-Called Trigger Warnings’ (time.com)
439 points by ourmandave on Aug 25, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 423 comments



This is tough.

With the aspirations of "civility and mutual respect" along with "rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement", I would hope any truly egregious edge cases disappear.

In the middle, I think people have the right to remove themselves from discussions—civil or otherwise—that they don't want to listen to or engage. But that right doesn't limit others' ability to have those selfsame discussions in public or private venues, nor require others to give you advance warning about it.

And finally, U. Chicago has the right to set degree requirements. If you are unable or unwilling to meet those requirements (e.g., not participating in discussions), then you have no place at that institution. After all, the "real world" won't hold your hand.

So...

Trigger Warnings ("A trigger warning is advance notice about subject material that may be difficult for certain students to read, hear or see.") U. Chicago says they "don't support" them. I think actively discouraging them in every case seems extreme, but the institution simply can't be required to provide trigger warnings in every case for every individual. In other words, a lack of trigger warning doesn't mean you won't be triggered.

Safe Spaces ("A safe space is a place they can go to avoid those subjects or heal after confronting them.") U. Chicago doesn't condone the creation of safe spaces. Similarly, I think this stance is extreme. Safe spaces may be necessary for individuals. But U. Chicago is under no obligation to provide them for you or excuse you from other discussions as a result.

In other words, U. Chicago isn't a place for people who don't want to discuss issues that make them uncomfortable. Which, on its face, seems reasonable to me.


Universities ought to return to what they once were: free and open exchange of ideas.

Viewed in this light, the University of Chicago's rejection of political correctness is actually a softening of extremism: allowing for, rather than actively silencing, diverse political discourse.

This is in stark contrast to neighbor Chicago school DePaul, who last month blocked[0] Jewish conservative minority voice Ben Shapiro from speaking.

The extreme position here is blocking and preventing free speech and ideas through safe spaces and trigger warnings. Dismantling these, as the U of C has done, is worth celebrating. I hope they are the first of many.

[0]: http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7923


> Universities ought to return to what they once were: free and open exchange of ideas.

The problem with this is that's not why most people go to universities. The top reason is probably credentials for employment (most people stop taking classes after getting a degree), and below that is probably education for employment (if I see someone with a degree taking a class just for the education, it's usually related to something they want to do for their job).

Universities are aware of this but pretend that's not the case, which is problematic. It'd be like if grocery stores started pretending their purpose was to provide an area for debate, and every time you wanted to get a gallon of milk you had to both pay for it and argue with the cashier about politics for 5 minutes. You don't want to do that? What, are you afraid of being exposed to new ideas?

I don't mind discussing things, but sometimes you just want a gallon of milk (or degree). Of course, you could go to the convenience store down the street, but they only carry cheap milk powder.


Yes, most people go to universities for the credential in order to gain employment. However, the reason why that credential is valuable in obtaining employment is because it implies that the holder of the credential has developed certain skills as part of their education.

One of those skills is the ability to think critically about a variety of topics. My assumption is that University of Chicago believes that in order to develop those critical thinking skills, it is a REQUIREMENT to learn an environment with a free and open exchange of ideas.

Students that want the credential BUT they do not want to complete one of the requirements of that credential should reconsider whether the credential is right for them or perhaps find another university.

To use your grocery store/gallon of milk analogy, a more accurate version would be if I went to a grocery store and asked for a gallon of milk, but demanded that it be zero calories and made from tomatoes. The store owner would tell the customer that they can buy tomato juice or water, but there is nothing labeled as MILK which meets their requirements.


> it is a REQUIREMENT to learn an environment with a free and open exchange of ideas.

This is going to get buried, but I feel like I need to write it somewhere.

The biggest argument I've seen /for/ safe spaces is that, outside of them, it is very possible for a certain type of conversation to be drowned out. Safe spaces, by limiting some types of conversation, can allow other types of conversations to foster.

In a purely "free speech" environment, someone can just yell their opinion on repeat, talking over everyone, etc. A safe space can allow certain topics room to talk that they might not get otherwise.

I agree with the concept that UoC should not have to _provide_ safe spaces or trigger warnings, but I feel like both can have their place for an exchange of ideas (safe spaces) or to prepare people for something they're uncomfortable with (trigger warnings).

Viewing them solely as a political attempt to stifle free speech reads rather privileged, based on the above notion I gained elsewhere. I can't quite describe why, which is disappointing to myself - but perhaps safe spaces are needed in order for minority topics to gain the room they need to be discussed.


The idea of a safe space is exactly what you what you said was the problem with free speech though. Any given person's "safe space" will be a place where their opinions are the only ones, so they're not challenged or offended.

Safe spaces only work if you set up a safe space for every possible viewpoint, or you ban any form of interaction within the safe space.


It can be, yes.

But if you're trying to discuss native american problems and someone just keeps interjecting that focusing on native american problems is racist - then you're not really getting anywhere either - was sort of my point.

I don't think they exist to stifle opposing viewpoints, but to at least attempt sane discussion on certain topics that would otherwise not get the opportunity to be discussed.


But wasn't it possible to discuss ideas amongst allies before safe spaces? I think groups like AIM, for example, provide a great forum for such activities. Likewise, I think student advocacy groups are an excellent idea.

What I don't like about the concept of safe spaces–and I say concept because I have never actually experienced one– is that I would prefer universities, which often have connections with government, to have as few censorship powers as possible.


The example you are using of someone that keeps interrupting is really not a safe space issue to me but really a professor allowing someone to be rude.

There's no need for safe spaces just a professor who can allow for ideas to be exchanged in class whether they are hurtful or not and keep the discussion civil and moving forward.


> However, the reason why that credential is valuable in obtaining employment is because it implies that the holder of the credential has developed certain skills as part of their education. One of those skills is the ability to think critically about a variety of topics.

I don't think that's actually the case. In my experience, employers care whether or not a person is generally competent (often using degrees as a type of signalling, even if that's not accurate), if they can justify the hiring purchase to others (IE, do they have a decent defense if you're a terrible employee), and whether or not you would excel in that particular job (hence asking you questions about it and your work style in general).

I can't think of a case where an interviewer was attempting to see if the candidate was able to think critically about a variety of topics (topics not connected to the particular job). I don't know of any example of, say, a programmer getting interviewed and being asked how they would interpret a particular piece of literature, or being particularly interested if they frequented a political debate group. Such things are almost never considered particularly important when resume suggestions are given.

However, if you have examples of something like this I would be interested in hearing them.


I don't think mcjon was suggesting that interviews for technical positions frequently veer off into discussions about literature.

Rather, I think the experiences you are "supposed" to get in a traditional 4 year university education - such as discussions about literature and other topics not directly related to your degree - are widely believed to improve your ability to think in ways that perhaps aren't directly quantifiable, but nevertheless provide significant benefit to your employer.

These benefits can manifest, for example, in employees that are able to handle disagreements among themselves rather than running to their manager every time they butt heads. Or employees that are simply able to learn new systems without extensive hand-holding through every step of the process.


It seems to me that you have this backwards. Universities serve a purpose in society beyond job training; It's been that way for a long time and they're pretty explicit about that fact (witness the difference in prestige between universities and vocational schools). Someone who wants to go there just for job training and not get exposed to anything beyond their narrow horizons shouldn't have the right to demand their environment conform to their ideal.

> It'd be like if grocery stores started pretending their purpose was to provide an area for debate, and every time you wanted to get a gallon of milk you had to both pay for it and argue with the cashier about politics for 5 minutes. You don't want to do that? What, are you afraid of being exposed to new ideas?

You have this precisely backwards. Grocery stores are designed and advertised as being for groceries: they're not debate areas that people decided to start using to pick up milk. A more relevant analogy would be people going into a church just to rest their legs in a pretty building, and then complaining about the guy droning on about God. We would quite clearly place the blame in that case on the people expecting the church to accommodate their ideal of "a pretty building to sit down in", in contradiction to the original and stated goals of the church.


> The problem with this is that's not why most people go to universities. The top reason is probably credentials for employment

This is most certainly not the case at the University of Chicago. If you want a degree, even a prestigious one, there are far easier options (even in Chicago... See that school in Evanston ;)

Students choose the U of C because they want to be challenged by ideas, they want to spend four miserable years pummeling their brains with the totality of human endeavor, at 1000 pages per week, lest they never have such chance again in their lives.

The degree itself matters to me very little, but the way that school changed my life will stay with me always.


Yep, UChicago alum here, too. It's a weak argument anywhere to claim we should limit free speech simply because most students attend universities for job training, not for intellectual enrichment. But it's an epic fail of an argument at Chicago. The school year opens with an address to the first years from a faculty member on "The Aims of Education." UC is not a lunch counter where students order things to their liking. Rather, the institution sits you down and tells you why you are there. You are encouraged to expand on their thoughts, but never to shirk the responsibilities the University puts on you.


It's pretty much a 'bend over and accept all the learning you're going to do'. Agreed w/ both of you though, that school changed my life in a very, very good way.


I almost wish I could say the same for my university education. I definitely grew as a person in college but I can't say it was really the University that did it. I could have done it anywhere. Now I realize I must not have been challenged enough.


I would be fine with this if it were applied equitably. As it stands, centrist and conservative students have been expected to endure progressive indoctrination, and they've done so relatively quietly up until it their speech and activities began to be prohibited (I believe it was UIC where someone chalked "Trump 2016" on the sidewalks, and students tried to have it prosecuted as a hate crime).


FWIW, UChicago is known for having one of the most conservative economics departments in the country/world. Over 50% of UChicago students major in econ (often as part of a double major), though most UChicago students are liberals.


I didn't know that. Thanks for the information. :)


It was at Emory


    >The problem with this is that's not why most people go to universities. The top reason is probably credentials for employment
Go to university and you should expect "free and open exchange of ideas", go to a trade school if all you want is "credentials for employment".


> Go to university and you should expect "free and open exchange of ideas", go to a trade school if all you want is "credentials for employment".

Sure, theoretically. In the real world, not so much. Want to be a lawyer high up in a corporate firm? Get a research position doing the kind of work PhD's do? Good luck going down that path by going to a trade school.

Heck, look at the example of Susan Finley. After 46 successful years at NASA, they demoted her - because she didn't have a bachelor's degree.

If universities want to be mainly about debate and a free exchange ideas, they should give up their monopolies on the things most people are going there for (monopolies they really shouldn't have in the first place).


Law is also the sort of degree that is full of potentially triggering discussion. Law is also the sort of career in which you can't just opt out of the discussion.

There are plenty of wider discussions to be had about this whole thing. Ensuring that faculty are good teachers, which includes the empathy to broach difficult subjects with sensitivity and moderate debate. The provision of welfare services to students to assist them to make the most of their studies.

Listening to a minority whose refusal to engage and demand that others cave in to their views harms society - and in many instances harms the very people making the demands. Victims of sexual assaults need a justice system that is better at understanding issues of consent, victim blaming and the harm victim may be put through by a trial - and how to weigh that up against the right to confront your accuser. Ethnic minorities need a society better educated in history, understanding of cultural differences and similarities who continue to be more progressive and accepting than previous generations.


> Want to be a lawyer ...

Perfect example! Law is one career where you can learn everything you need to know by reading books (ok, maybe all of them are that way..). Yet legislators (many lawyers themselves) in several states have introduced new laws to limit licensure only to those who have degrees. This would've excluded notables like Lincoln, Jefferson, Darrow, Marshall.


What's the justification for doing this?


The Bar Association is a modern guild. They don't want competition.


Jefferson, at least, graduated from the College of William & Mary.


True, he studied law there but was never offered a "degree".

"I see on your C.V. you've written 'The United States Declaration of Independence' -- nice job! Oh but no JD? Tsk. Next!"

EDIT: though he was awarded 'honorary' degrees from several institutions. Would those pass muster these days? ;)


Get a research position doing the kind of work PhD's do?

Avoiding exposure to ideas that challenge your own is not a good strategy for becoming an effective researcher.


> Susan Finley. After 46 successful years at NASA, they demoted her - because she didn't have a bachelor's degree

This is rather disingenuous. According to an article in the NYT [1] she just had her job title changed in 2004, from 'Engineer' to 'Engineering Specialist.' Her salary and status did not change. See the excerpt below:

    Instead, Ms. Finley, who never finished her degree, fell
    into a newly created classification: engineering
    specialist, an hourly position.

    Her overall pay did not change, and she is now eligible
    for overtime.
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/science/space/nasa-juno-su...


You left out this part:

> But the change still irks Ms. Finley; she must mark down her arrival each day, her half-hour of lunch and the time she leaves to go home.

> “It’s a demotion,” she said. “No one wants a demotion. We want to be treated like we deserve. But it’s true. I don’t have a degree.”

Nathalia Holt, a science writer who wrote a book about Finley and others, also considers it a demotion:

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/the-women-who-brought-...


Look at the way things could be, and ask "Why not?"

I'm not going to reject the ideal of college as a place to expand intellect because one common use is as a trade school.


Well, if universities are doing so wrong, you would expect people coming out to fix the problem by competing with them, at least in a free market like the States.

You may say they have, by setting up trade schools, whatever they are. If the trade schools are not doing enough, that's the problem of the trade schools, rather than of the universities. If the trade schools can provide good enough education, employers will recognize credentials they provide. If employers don't recognize them, there must be something missing from their education. The piece missing may well be what universities want the students to learn: communication with those you don't like.


But to be a lawyer high up in a corporate firm or get a research position you had damn well better be used to a free and open exchange of ideas. It is part of the "credentials for employment" that you can handle debate and can handle other people having radically different viewpoints and discussing uncomfortable topics.


No such trade schools exist for many professions. Would that they did! In fact, some are rising to the challenge/seizing the opportunity for professions like software development.

Many/most professional jobs treat university degrees as non-negotiable entrance criteria. Some go to the enormous trouble to punish professionals who are otherwise productive but have "gotten by" with extensive experience instead of a degree once it's discovered that they never had one.


> a trade school if all you want is "credentials for employment"

For many occupations, a trade school will not provide that. If trade schools expand to provide credential for many more fields, then maybe this will be a valid response. Until then it's not.


I'd argue that a big part of preparing for the working world is learning to think critically and contend with ideas and concepts that may seem strange, foreign, or downright unsettling to you. Because that's what the real world will throw at you. And because doing so will strengthen your intellectual and emotional abilities.

There's more to any given job, or any given career path, than the hard skills required for it. Arguably much more.

I realize we can quickly slip down the rabbit hole of debating what the primary purpose of a college education is supposed to be. I'd rather not do so. Even if we believe that the primary purpose is job preparation, we should acknowledge that developing critical thinking skills serves that purpose well.


You're right, of course, but I sure wish you weren't. In the world that I dream of we are prepared for an apprenticeship by the time we're halfway through high school and exit the apprenticeship a few years later in to a career. I just don't see any reason that 12 years of schooling isn't enough to get to entry level skill set in any profession.

Then we could save Universities for art and intellectual pursuits, spending an increasing amount of time there as our children grow up and eventually leave the house. As a dad of young children right now I feel a tinge of melancholy as I realize that in not too many years my children will move on and my life will become much quieter. How great would it be if instead I could look forward to that time when I'm able to engage with others who are at a similar stage in life for an indefinite period of challenging and rewarding study? People who have had enough life experience to actually have something to share and some real differing opinions and experiences? People who are not in a hurry to get a degree and get on with life? That seems to me to be much closer to the ideal of what we would like for a University to be.


I agree, and think it's crazy that we as a society give up on mental growth for most people past a certain point. There's an enormous amount of potential that gets wasted because of the erroneous assumption that most people won't grow past a certain point. I think most people would be happier taking new classes, meeting new people, working on new projects, etc. than they would be sitting at home watching TV or reading about celebrities.

There's some, limited support for this kind of continual growth, but not nearly as much as there should be.


Have you tried looking into whether or not your local community college offers any seminar classes? I took a couple seminar classes at university and a couple at a community college and they were great. It's a class format where there is generally a small lecture up front about the course materials followed by a discussion where everyone is allowed to participate and lead the discussion in any direction(within reason of course). From my experience it was mostly young people at university, but had a good mix of ages at the community college. I think I learned more from a single seminar class I took on history than I did from my two years of traditional history classes in college.


If you just want a gallon of milk, got ahead and buy it. No one's stopping you.

The real issue here is people using "safe spaces" and "triggers" and "microaggressions" and what have you to block people from making the choices they want to make. Like you, they seem to think that someone speaking about something they disagree with is about them. It isn't.

All you have to do is be tolerant, and mind your own business like any other adult.

If someone else wants to buy tomato juice, why should you care?


Even if what you're saying is true, "safe spaces" are infantilizing. At some point in life you have to learn how to cope with people who disagree with you.


Sometimes it's helpful to analyze our reaction to things if we can find a similar situation where the politics are reversed.

Go to any public university in the South, and you can hear essentially the same sentiment in your post, coming from young conservative white kids who don't want to question the way they were brought up or learn about other cultures, gay rights, etc.

I think the idea of a university is that it's good for the intellectual development of both the conservative southern kids and the trigger warning kids if they occasionally have to struggle with new ideas outside their comfort zone.


You are arguing for vocational institutions. They already exist, and they are not universities.


I think your description is accurate but your analogy is tragic. What kind of a mess have we got ourselves into that that the University is now comparable with retail?


> I don't mind discussing things, but sometimes you just want a gallon of milk (or degree).

It is a clever metaphore, but I don't think degrees are like gallons of milk at all. It is more like Louis Vuitton bags.

There are USD$600 LV bags, and there are others that cost twice or even 3 times as much. But, as many people that would love to snatch a USD$100 bag as there might be, LV cannot sell to them; if they did, all the > USD$1k customers would never buy LV again. Then the < USD$1k customers would begin to ask why they cannot have a 50% discount in the first place. And before long, LV would be selling at Walmart, competing with the (much more experienced) other players in the $20-$30 bag market.

Degrees are the same. Lots of people who only want a job want those. But the people who already have one like to believe that their degree says something about them; among other things, that they have the ability to dispasionately discuss subjects they find personally offensive. Every successful university has to stay in speaking terms with their alumni, if not for no other reason than to have then send their kids to the same university when the time comes.

At the end of day, University of Chicago is branding itself as "the place to study if you are an actual adult". Sometimes you want to sell regular milk, but sometimes you want to sell organic, grass-fed, free-range milk. And it is a good thing to have both options available.


the University of Chicago's rejection of political correctness is actually a softening of extremism

How about an "arms limitation treaty" between the left and the right in the US? Both sides will give up most of their empirically unsupported, subjective, and intellectually dishonest tactics for muddying the waters and suppressing substantive debate. The left can give up trigger warnings while the right can stop denying climate science.

What we need in the US is a "Groupthink Potlatch." We should have a reality TV show alternative to the mainstream debates where two high profile contestants destroy their own side's intellectually dishonest bullshit. The winner is the one who gives away or destroys the most of their own side's intellectually dishonest bullshit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch

(Is that cultural appropriation? Heh.)


Climate Science is actually an interesting intersection of these issues. "Safe space"-style rhetoric has been used to no platform people who deny global warming. The government does not fund research into any climate science that looks for an alternate explanation.

Unfortunately, the combination of these two things makes it nearly impossible to be a climate-scientist who disagrees with the herd. Even if you could overcome the massive cultural hurdle, you have society and the government to deal with as well.

Which makes me skeptical, but I still think that it's safest to heed the precautionary principle.


I'd love that. The problem is that it's really, really hard to criticize your own tribe. (People who made a habit of criticizing their tribe in the ancestral environment were killed off very quickly).


There are many on the right that agree that climate change is real. But they aren't just going to accept any and all legislation because of it. It's just that type of issue where the most ridiculous money wasting endeavors can be injected in the still of the night. Also not all regulations of industries improve them. Many hinder progress, many make it impossible to have competition in an area and some frankly are just based on incomplete science.

The other day I read an article where the headline said "Scientists explain why despite global warming, there is more ice in the antarctic." Then in the text it said "Scientists can't explain it."

So don't just think that things are conclusive because you've been reading articles. The "warmest july on record" isn't really all that impressive to me considering the record isn't that deep when it comes to the age of the earth.


> Universities ought to return to what they once were: free and open exchange of ideas.

That's an ideal that was never really true. Historically, a major function of universities has been being places where white male elites could congregate and maintain their power by excluding others: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-ivy-leagues-history-of-di....

I'm not a supporter of the movement to stamp out uncomfortable ideas from universities. But let's not look at things through rose-colored glasses. Even with space spaces, universities today are much closer to the ideal than they were 50-100 years ago.


You have a very narrow view of universities and higher learning throughout history. The ancient Greek and Arab traditions in academia were very much that of open discourse and the pursuit of enlightenment through knowledge, not the entrenching of white males or indeed any other majority.


>The ancient Greek and Arab traditions in academia were very much that of open discourse and the pursuit of enlightenment through knowledge, not the entrenching of white males or indeed any other majority

Yes, all those slave-owning Greeks and Arabs were really the pinnacle of open discourse and the pursuit of enlightenment. There was definitely no social model they intended to enforce on others, and their universities were bastions of openness. Truly.


Huh, I had a feeling someone would do a post-modernist-style critique of ancient higher learning academies. Look, no one is saying that ancient societies were perfect; but seeing as they literally invented the concepts of a platonic institute for higher learning and for the gathering of knowledge for human progress, I think we can cut them some slack for being inhabitants of their eras. The same way that, gosh, I hope your descendants cut you some slack for being an inhabitant of a savage era of worldwide conflict, poverty, materialism and food shortage, not to mention environmental degradation.


Why should anyone be cut any slack? We can all clearly see the trend of moral progress and we should all be able to extrapolate from it. Progressivism wins and reactionism loses. But even with a myopic view of history, you have to be truly willfully blind to ignore the liberatory struggles that have existed as long as oppression. Slaves have always revolted.

There is nothing "post-modern" about this either. My ideologies are as modernist as they come, and it's clear to me that the ancient Greeks were in no way in favor of some platonic ideal of open, free discourse. They didn't let allow women or slaves in their open, free discourse, and even if they did, but shouted them down (as antagonists of safer spaces are doing in this thread, the University of Chicago, and virtually every other space, because oppression is the default, liberation is something you have to actively build), that would not make the discourse any more free or open. You're not being "anti-postmodern," you're just being willfully blind of savage inequities in the institutions you're holding up as examples. If you didn't want that contradiction examined you shouldn't have spoken up. (And don't even think about complaining about being called out for this -- what do you want, some ``safe space'' where you can just pat yourself on the back with other slavery apologists?)


> We can all clearly see the trend of moral progress and we should all be able to extrapolate from it. Progressivism wins and reactionism loses

Many people do not agree with that and not just reactionaries. A majority of philosophers (natural + unnatural) and religions in history would have explained their world by cycles. There are a great many events, many disturbing to the happy-go-lucky narrative that the Progressivism Forever hypothesis fails to explain.

I take the point that Cthulhu swims slowly leftwards but without understanding why it is that he does so it is dangerous to extrapolate for the next 300 years.


Ad hominem? Did I get the spelling right?


They will be even better when we don't infantilize minorities by acting like we need the degenerated versions of these concepts.


To be fair, I don't think it's minorities that are asking for trigger warnings. They are groups with political agendas.


That is true. As many of you know there are an unusual number of transgender/sexual in the tech/geek communities and in my experience they get along with those of a conservative or christian bent and often have healthy non-rancorous debates with them. Perhaps they are supposed to be at war and some of them are but I don't see it. I think it helps a lot that people identify as geeks first so in a hackerspace it is assumed we're all in the same tribe, trying to be interesting people doing interesting things.


> That's an ideal that was never really true.

Sure it was. In the 1960s and 70s, for example, when Universities were a hotbed of free speech and civil liberty activism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech_Movement


The interesting thing about the FSM speicifically is that was exclusively at Berkeley.

It is true that there were significant student protest movements at many universities in the 60's and 70's.

I don't think that this invalidates the OP's point that "historically, a major function of universities has been being places where white male elites could congregate and maintain their power by excluding others".

Look over the last 200 years or so of universities in the US. It's only since the 1950's that non-whites and females started attending in significant numbers.

Even if we take 1970 as a cut-off where that is no-longer the majority case, the OP's point is still valid.


When people call for universities to return to being a place for the free and open exchange of ideas, I think this is exactly what many of them want universities to return to being.

Take, for example, the Yale Halloween controversy, where supporters of this ideal fought hard to protect white male students from the idea that their costumes were mocking others because it might make them uncomfortable wearing them, and that violated their free speech somehow.

Or take the conservative activist who was so outraged at a left-wing poem in a newsletter that he barged into the office of a professor involved with it, demanding to know who "approved" the offending article and refusing to leave, and how groups like FIRE and all the other vocal supporters of the free end open exchange of ideas insisted his actions were a valent stand for the freedom of student speech.


I assume people like Shapiro collect fees from the school for speaking, so would it be correct to frame the issue as students not wanting their money to go into the pockets of a person that they don't support?


I don't believe so, no.

DePaul claimed they blocked Shapiro from speaking due to "security concerns"[0]. In particular, students in favor of safe spaces and trigger warnings threatened to riot, block the doors, and prevent student access to the event. DePaul capitulated to this bullying by banning Shapiro.

Related: California State University-Los Angeles planned on hosting Shapiro to speak, but demanded[1] the student group which invited him to pay $600 to the university in security fees. When the student group refused, the university blocked his speech.

I'm not aware of this happening to speakers holding majority political viewpoint; it affects the minority viewpoints primarily. Frame it in terms of race: imagine a modern campus saying, "We allow blacks to speak, but only if they pay hundreds of dollars to provide security against the white riots that will inevitably arise."

[0]: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/1/ben-shapiro-b...

[1]: http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/26367/


Do you believe that speakers of hate speech should be allowed on campus? I think theres a big difference between speakers you disagree with and the former.

I'm a grad student at DePaul at the loop campus so I don't really follow much of what is going on with the undergrads at the main campus, but it seems to me that the administration is taking a hard stance because of people like Milo who are mostly there for shock effect and not because they are saying anything of substance. His speech was successfully protested and he wasn't invited back.


> Do you believe that speakers of hate speech...

Who gets to create the definition of 'hate speech'? You, I assume?

> ...and not because they are saying anything of substance.

Because he's not substantive to you and people who agree with you, right?

Free speech is great as long as it's within acceptable boundaries!


> I think theres a big difference between speakers you disagree with and the former.

There is zero difference. "Hate speech" is a phrase invented by modern progressives to describe disagreeable views. It has zero meaning outside of pop liberal circles.


"Hate speech" is a phrase invented by modern progressives to describe disagreeable views.

I'm not entirely familiar with the US usage of the term, but that doesn't seem right to me. The pre-WW2 British Public Order Act (1936) was enacted to stop attacks by British Facists on Jews, and part of it was a ban on the "use [of] threatening and abusive words"[1]

It has zero meaning outside of pop liberal circles

That certainly isn't true. In many countries there are laws against it[2]

[1] http://spartacus-educational.com/Lpublic.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech


Yeah and ask yourself what merit does Germany have when making a negative comment about islam on a social network will get you a visit and possible fine or jail time. This is thought crime and it's NOT the right direction for the world to go.


I don't think I made any comment about its utility?


Good point, my statement is specific to the US.


That's a pretty strong accusation. If you're going to label someone as a hater, at least provide some references. Otherwise, you come across as the hater, with at least the appearance of making baseless claims.


Have you ever listened to Ben Shapiro? That the content of his talks can be labeled as hate speech is the very problem with the idea of having hate speech be a thing. It rapidly becomes "Anything that disagrees with the majority, regardless of facts."


Which is the "student vs consumer" argument. If you are a consumer, then you complain about how your money is not being spent to match your existing preferences. If you are student, you are there to be exposed to things you disagree with and don't support, so you don't complain when the University provides and pays for speakers (or professors) you disagree with.


That is a good point, and I agree with you when the case is that the idea or person you disagree with is a necessary part of the curriculum/class. But in the case where it's an extracurricular activity or student organization that isn't a core part of the degree, then why doesn't a student have the right to complain?

edit: I believe that students are also consumers. The two are not mutually exclusive. Tuition is pretty high these days. I guess the difficult part is finding the right balance.


Most of the times these clubs that pay for speakers are given a stipend to spend on events from the school. When universities bring in people like Ben Shapiro or Milo Yiannopoulos, it is almost always the campus Republican group that pays, in part with the money provided by the school, and in part with money raised by the group itself. Campus Democrats also get money for the exact same purpose.

I would say that the students certainly do have the right to complain and protest as long as it is not violent and not terribly disruptive. Complaining and protesting is PART of the open exchange of ideas. Physically blockading events is not, shouting down speakers while they are speaking is not, and in general throwing an adult-sized tantrum until you get your way is not.


Why should student A who sees the negative of a speaker have the power of veto over student B who sees the positive of the speaker? What happens when student B complains about a speaker that student A wants to hear? Do we just ban everybody or allow a diversity of opinions?

For that matter, if the speaker is invited by a student organization that the complaining student is not a member of, why should that student complain? Just don't go.


Why not allow both? The group can have their speaker within whatever guidelines the school has (some schools ban foul language or other school-wide policies), and the other group is allowed to protest. Just like the real world where another company can do what it wants within the law, but I can also protest what and how they do it.


Protesting the speaker's ideas is always fine.

Protesting the speaker's existence is difficult to intellectually justify as a healthy exchange of ideas, including critique.

These days, what we see is a lot of the latter -- up to and including attempting to prevent attendance of the event -- and very little of the former.


I've seen cases on college campuses of obvious criminal activity, although usually minor, that is excused because they happen during a protest.


> would it be correct to frame the issue as students not wanting their money to go into the pockets of a person that they don't support?

Should creationist students lobby to remove the teaching of evolution from the curriculum? I understand that it's not an identical situation, but the general point is that students are putting a certain level of trust in the university to educate them, and having a line-item veto on the manner that that's done leads to insanity if you actually apply it equitably. If students knew exactly what they needed to learn, going to college would be largely irrelevant.


> the University of Chicago's rejection of political correctness

I disagree. To me, political correctness is about not limiting other people's opportunities through stereotyping them. Making jokes about gangstas when the black guy is around or talking about terrorists like they're all muslim reinforces stereotypes and makes it harder for people of that demographic. Political correctness isn't about preventing offense, it's about not limiting opportunity, and in my opinion, the 'hacker' crowd that's supposed to be all about meritocracy should be strongly for political correctness. Trigger warnings don't fit into this - you're not claiming someone is something they're not (directly or indirectly).

I like what the U of C has done here, but it's not about PC.


Your definition of political correctness is incorrect. And what you believe about it doesn't make it so.


Google disagrees with you: "the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against." Nothing in that relates to 'trigger warnings'.

It's nice, though, that you just declare me wrong by fiat, without any evidence to support the definition that you believe (or even what the definition is).


No, political correctness has always been a negative. Your first page google findings are fitting your bias. Like any other political term, it has been written and batted back and forth, occasionally hijacked to try to give it a positive spin.

You're taking an underhanded approach here. "Marginalized" "Socially Disadvantaged" are just buzz words to distract from the definition. Attempting to create a victimized group (straw man) to try to make political correctness a good thing to protect the straw man is disingenuous.

Political correctness is and always will be lying or deciding not to say what many people recognize or experience as truth out of a perceived fear of political rejection, ostracism or whatever dreamt up consequences. The problems continue because ignoring, hiding, refraining from voicing actual problems means that they will never be addressed.

This is political correctness imposed on another person and in this case worthy of a civil rights lawsuit. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/08/03/student-facing-50-...


I'm taking an underhanded approach? You're the one that just said "no, you're wrong", with no evidence, then just handwave away some evidence that I present, dismissing it by fiat as well.

> Political correctness is and always will be...

Horseshit. Like any movement, some people go too far. But as a counter-example, in one of his shows, Dara O'Briain heard someone in the audience yell out "Yeah, fuck PC!", to which he replied "Yeah, fuck those people and their manners". The bulk of PC behaviour is very good, it's just the extremes that stand out, like with anything.

And seriously, quoting a Fox News article in support of what you have to say? You do know that their 'Fair and Balanced' slogan is just an ironic joke that they use? I use the relatively neutral Google to support my argument, and you use the frothy, proven liars of the extreme right wing Fox News? Yeah, I'm the one taking the underhanded approach here...


> "A trigger warning is advance notice about subject material that may be difficult for certain students to read, hear or see."

But that's not what trigger warnings are for... it's not just about mild discomfort. They're to prevent panic attacks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauma_trigger

Whether trigger warnings are effective or not is a different matter, but of course if you portray them as being about being offended or mild discomfort that they sound utterly stupid.


> They're to prevent panic attacks.

That might have been the original intent of a "trigger warning", but their sheer prevalence today indicates that this is either no longer true or else we have nothing less than a massive public health emergency that we should be dropping everything else to work to address.


It does seem that way. It's kind of how a few people have food allergies, but a larger number of people have foods they refuse to eat despite not having allergies. It's not uncommon to find out that someone who merely has a preference to avoid an ingredient has been fibbing and calling it an "allergy" just to smooth things over socially.

This is really frustrating for someone with a genuine allergy because you feel drowned out by all the "fake" allergies that are just preferences and as a result sometimes people take allergies less seriously because they assume your "allergy" is just a preference, or just generally take it less seriously. For example, if someone asks you if something contains gluten, knowing nothing else, what would you estimate are the chances they are actually seriously allergic to it? These days, with the popularity of avoiding gluten in the west, maybe below 50%. This is a scary situation for anyone with a genuine allergy.

I'm sure it's just as frustrating for people with genuine PTSD or other situations where real mental health trauma could occur, to be drowned out and lumped in with all these folks who merely experience mild discomfort at discussing a topic.

So, a plea -- if you don't genuinely suffer from a serious physical or mental health response to a situation, but merely mild discomfort, be honest and just say you don't like something. You're making it worse for people with genuine problems when you lie and call it a genuine medical problem.

If you're not sure, a good rule of thumb is if you haven't been to or plan to soon go to a doctor (or really want to, but can't for some reason eg financial) to discuss the problem, it must not be disturbing your life enough to count as a real malady.


very well put


I don't see a prevalence of trigger warnings. I do see a prevalence of people talking about trigger warnings.


I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't live/work in California.

I spend a lot of time in SF and LA, and in both places, the types of people who demand trigger warnings (and, related, talk about microaggressions and other imaginary offenses) are pretty common.

That also happens to be where a huge chunk of HN commenters/readers are based.

It is our reality. I do celebrate the news that outside of the SF/LA metro areas this cancer has not yet reached, but my day-to-day is very much affected by it.


It does seem like the discussion often assumes they are or will be widespread, which doesn't seem to be happening. I'd like to see numbers, particularly on college campuses, where they are allegedly more common.


I thought I was the only one.

This whole topic feels a bit... I dunno... fabricated? astroturfed? I mean are these things really an issue outside of maybe a few humanities departments in super-liberal private colleges?

It's an election year folks.


I read the wikipedia you linked, specifically about trigger warnings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauma_trigger#Trigger_warning...

But your statement:

> They're to prevent panic attacks.

Seems to counter the arguments in the link:

> Richard J. McNally, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, while writing for Pacific Standard,[13] discussed the merit of trigger warnings noting that "Trigger warnings are designed to help survivors avoid reminders of their trauma, thereby preventing emotional discomfort. Yet avoidance reinforces PTSD. Conversely, systematic exposure to triggers and the memories they provoke is the most effective means of overcoming the disorder" while citing several academic studies conducted on PTSD sufferers.


There's a difference between exposure therapy (conducted with a trained therapist or just in a deliberate self-directed way), and having a panic attack in the middle of your day because of an unexpected stimulus.


> Yet avoidance reinforces PTSD. Conversely, systematic exposure to triggers and the memories they provoke is the most effective means of overcoming the disorder" while citing several academic studies conducted on PTSD sufferers.

Right, but I'd assume this is probably done in small increments or doses? A person who's finding themselves exposed to said triggers may not be able to control how much of it they get in certain situations, which could arguably leave them off worse after the event.


[flagged]


This comment scares me in a way I can't really put my finger on.

Maybe it's the implicit assumption that oppression outweighs everything else – i.e someone who is black ipso facto lives a worse life than someone who is white, disregarding all other factors.

I feel like if a critical majority of people actually believed that all colleges were just "factories of oppression, sexual assault, and white supremacy", then we'd have some kind of civil war.


The other implication of this that never gets acknowledged: If modern US colleges are all these horrible things and widely known to be left leaning, then why are the students mostly all leftists? Isn't there something rotten in the institution if it aligns with you ideologically and yet is an engine of the oppression you rail against?


His comment was specifically talking about treatment of PTSD and anxiety disorders. But I guess since he's white his conclusion, based on studies, is invalid?


If a person cannot read a piece of literature without having a panic attack then perhaps they are not physically able to take a course in, say, English. It is up to the university to decide what it does with this kind of student: do they choose to not admit or graduate students who are incapable of completing the degree requirements? Do they tailor the degrees to students with special needs and make exceptions? Do they insist these students take a leave of absence and receive treatment before they continue?

All of these responses seem reasonable. If a student has such a unique life experience that they are not capable of completing standard university coursework, then the onus is on them to make that known to professors or administrators and come to some compromise. It is not the responsibility of the university to label and restructure its courses to acknowledge that there is a tiny fraction of the population that cannot participate in their education without severe distress.

Anything could be a trigger. Anything involving criminal justice could be a trigger for someone falsely (or rightfully!) imprisoned. A rape scene could be a trigger for a rape victim. Certain feminist literature could be a trigger for someone whose life was ruined through a false rape accusation. Someone who was recently dumped or cheated on could be triggered by discussing relationships. Perhaps a physics class triggers someone afflicted by severe existential angst -- entropy always increases? Domestic violence, child abuse, war, general violence, bullying, racism, torture -- many of these, things every college student should consider and think about before graduating -- are all triggers for someone.

So we should really put a trigger warning on every course. Better, let's make that trigger warning describe roughly what's going to be in the course and what students can expect out of it. Better yet, maybe put the grading scheme, reading list, and the rest of the administrative information about the course in it. We could call it some kind of nonsense word so as not to offend the people who hate trigger warnings or the people who love them. How about "syllabus".

Course syllabi already have a generally accurate description of course content so students may choose whether or not to expose themselves to any given material or prepare themselves.

The fact that a course is a college course and discusses human interaction at all should serve as enough as a trigger warning for anyone -- there could be triggering material in it. Period. Even if a class is about cold war economics, a student could bring up rape or racism in discussion.


Avoidance in the form of 'trigger warnings' may actually worsen the underlying problem for people with PTSD because avoidance can strengthen the underlying fear.

Successful treatment often actually involves confronting the fear, little by little, until it no longer causes discomfort:

"Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy[118] that involves assisting trauma survivors to re-experience distressing trauma-related memories and reminders in order to facilitate habituation and successful emotional processing of the trauma memory. Most exposure therapy programs include both imaginal confrontation with the traumatic memories and real-life exposure to trauma reminders; this therapy modality is well supported by clinical evidence."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder#...


Exposure therapy can be effective, but under controlled circumstances as supervised by a professional and prepared for by the patient.

Uncontrolled exposure is more likely to worsen the anxiety than extinguish it.


I feel like the idea the parent was suggesting is that avoidance behaviour itself can increase anxiety about the topic, and that encouraging it may end up being more harmful than the risk of uncontrolled exposure, especially when the result of such exposure is not necessarily negative.


Classrooms aren't treatment centers. Regardless, your point is a much fairer one to raise than the "intellectual rigor" argument the University is making.


This argument is absurd and yet I see it often enough that I assume it is a standard political talking point.

I mean, are you really arguing that the clinical approach to trauma is to surprise the patient with the topic in the middle of important everyday tasks?

Obviously, trigger warning provide a useful tool for people to manage their own exposure to these panic attacks. If this was not the case then no-one would ever suffer from PTSD as it would be instantly self-healing!


You glossed over the first sentence:

> Avoidance in the form of 'trigger warnings' may actually worsen the underlying problem for people with PTSD because avoidance can strengthen the underlying fear.

The argument is that active avoidance is bad because it makes the ensuing panic attacks worse when they do happen and makes it harder for exposure therapy to work. Your post is addressing a strawman.


A trigger warning is not avoidance. No one is advocating avoidance, that is the straw man here.

I repeat myself: "Obviously, trigger warnings provide a useful tool for people to manage their own exposure to these panic attacks."

This allows for simple acts such as taking anti-anxiety medication beforehand or sitting at the end of a row to allow you to leave a lecture unobtrusively if you need to.


It's not your right to attempt to "treat" someone of a disorder as someone who isn't their doctor.


If someone has an anxiety disorder of this magnitude then their diagnosing physician would provide the student with the paperwork required to delay their course.

This would be for however long is needed to seek the treatment to return to a stable enough level of mental health to return to university.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flooding_(psychology)

I had a fear of heights that bordered on panic attacks. I worked out of the 29th floor of a building for the first time in my life and felt like half of the day was spent thinking about how high I was.

I was looking for housing and every highrise I had to look out the window and feel a wave of intense panic. So I chose a highrise, and made myself look out the window all the time. Took some time, but I definitely don't have the same reaction I used to. I'm actually totally fine.


If you have a phobia, one natural reaction is to anticipate in which situations the "trigger" will occur and to actively avoid such situations. It's well-known in psychology however that this behavior actually reinforces the phobia and prevents it from healing.

Trigger warnings seem like the same strategy only elevated on an institutional level. So while they do prevent panic attacks, they would actually do the traumatized more harm than good.

The other thing is that people can develop phobias against almost everything. So no matter how many trigger warnings the university put up, there could always be one group which finds their particular triggers not marked up well enough.


This is a use case, but it's not the use case for universities. Universities employ trigger warnings for subjects that might offend particular groups.


But that's not what trigger warnings are for... it's not just about mild discomfort. They're to prevent panic attacks.

I'm sure no true Scotsman would have a problem with that definition...


This is simple.

"Trigger warnings" are a form of censorship. "Safe spaces" are a form of self-segregation. Both are anathema to the academy.

To address the proposed censorship policy first, universities are the birthplace of free speech. Free exchange of ideas is absolutely essential for the transfer and furtherance of human knowledge. Both instructors and students must be able to state their ideas without fear of reprisal.

With regard to so-called "safe spaces," in my experience they are little more than ethnic enclaves with University funding. Whatever their original underlying rationale, "safe spaces" formed based on race, nationality, ethnic identity have become the norm.

Further, universities are not supposed to be comfortable. They are designed to confront our deepest beliefs, to intermingle people of vastly different backgrounds, and to teach not only technical skill, but the ability to cooperate with those with whom we have little in common. They are supposed to submerge people of different backgrounds in the same environment.

If you are comfortable, you are doing it wrong.

Finally, who determines who deserves a "safe space" and what requires a "trigger warning"? Inevitably the answer is the ever-expanding administration. The concept that these hired bureaucrats should be policing faculty speech is both inane and dangerous.

This new brand of political correctness ends with the shattered careers of educators. It ends with students educated about a reality that doesn't actually exist.

It ends with censored education.


Its not tough at all. So called trigger warnings never existed until recently and very few people had problems. I never heard of anyone breaking down in class due to difficult subject matters in my 5 years at university (or after).


It happens. It happened in a high school class I was teaching once. Out of the blue my student just started crying. I tried to ask her what the problem was, but it made it worse. I later found that it was a PTSD issue, but I never did find out exactly what triggered it (and I don't remember exactly what we were talking about). The student eventually had to drop my course. She wrote me a very nice letter apologising profusely and saying that she thought I was a good teacher, but that she couldn't continue with the class.

Having said that, I'm not sure a trigger warning is necessarily a good idea. It's a pretty serious situation and I don't think that you could come up with a blanket solution that would work.


That's like saying "What do we need wheel chair ramps for?" I've never seen a person in a wheel chair get stuck trying to access the building. Partially disabled people are a minority, partially people don't pay that much attention, and partially people are self-selected out of such situations. Panic attacks are a disability. Trigger warners are not to censor, but to INCREASE the audience participation. If anything, it's anti-censorship.


Quite the opposite, it's really simple.

Trigger warnings do not belong into lectures. If you can't bear to hear the material you do not belong anywhere near an university.

Safe spaces are areas created by fascist people who want to shut down any dissenting opinions and stifle free speech.

Destroy PC culture once and for all. Congratulations, University of Chicago, a step in the right direction.

The university is here to stimulate the mind. An exchange of ideas, a wealth of information that enriches your thinking. The university should be the source of the most controversial ideas, not shield people from them. It is a place where ideas are manufactured by people who have a love for learning and freely playing with ideas.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't universities been designating their entire campuses as "safe spaces"? Disinviting speakers and silencing students whose world views are insufficiently progressive? Or perhaps these issues are distinct, and I'm mistaken?


Sure, a lot of the liberal-leaning authoritarian-left ones have been. The University of Chicago is about as far from that as it gets.


Sure, my comment wasn't about University of Chicago specifically, but about American universities generally. Thanks for the clarification though, I wasn't aware. :)


> After all, the "real world" won't hold your hand.

The "real world" will eat you alive if you can't discuss topics which make you uncomfortable.


I think the idea of trigger warnings is a really good one. "Here is a topic not everyone will be able to process. If you don't feel like you can be a part of it, please leave, because we WILL be talking about it." This is a very anti-censorship stance. Tyler Cowan said it best: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/04/why...

However, triggers have changed from a thing individuals are warned of that they have a personal responsibility to avoid, to something the world is supposed to avoid for people.

"I was triggered" has become an argument some groups make as a way to say something inappropriate happened. This is non-sensical, because the idea of triggers is that something random sets someone off because of a past experience. We can't remake the world because strawberries set you off!

What's worse, this use of triggers as a preemptive is a very small step away from certain groups censoring others.

Triggers are a great idea, but only if being triggered is not be an argument against something being done, and not if it is a phrase that holds any power as a preemptive. That is that part that needs to change, the preemptive, nothing that triggers anyone is acceptable part. I just can't see how that part can or will be changed.


Which is ultimately why they are bad. Asking people to "tag" everything that could be offensive is moronic.


> After all, the "real world" won't hold your hand.

This is where you lost me. It just sounds like such a "republican-dad" kind of thing to say and I don't even get what it means. Can you clarify and give examples?


It means that, in the "real world" -- when you have a job or are operating a business, or are requesting donations for your non-profit, or otherwise interacting with people on a purely mutually voluntary basis, rather than because you are paying tuition to them and they are obligated to interact with you -- almost nobody cares about coddling your personality quirks and interacting with you in some rules-based circumspect way in order to avoid topics that you find unpleasant, or to otherwise make it easier for you to handle the interaction. (Note that this is an empirical description of how things actually are, not a moral evaluation of how things ought to be. Whether it would be nicer if things were some other way is beside the point.)

It therefore behooves you to learn how to deal with unpleasant topics and "mean" people in general in a constructive and adult way while you are at university, rather than creating formalized institutional barriers that create artificial "safe spaces" to shield you from such things, and thus allow you to avoid learning to deal with them.


Your grade 1-12 teachers are, in some ways, paid to put up with your bullshit. They remind you about homework, listen you your excuses, etc. They understand that in many ways, you are still a child and that you do need help.

College professors (based on my experience and popular wisdom) are less likely to fill that "parenting" role. You are expected to be responsible and to take the initiative.

When you land a job, you are expected to perform. They expect that you will need help remembering to do your work, or to show up on time, or to be responsible for yourself.

Today, it seems, that the "college experience" is being overthrown by the PC police. This is what some colleges are teaching those entering the workforce:

Saying "Where are you from" is racist

Saying "America is a melting pot" is racist

Saying "Hey, can you guys help me look at this problem" is sexist\misogynist

Telling a woman in leadership “I love your shoes!” is bad

Referring to your co-worker’s girlfriend as “girlfriend” instead of “partner” is homophobic

And on and on and on.

And then these kids enter the workforce with an older generation who thinks the above list is absurd. There is going to be conflict and they older generation will wonder what happened to the youngins. They are incapable of living without finding ways to point to their victim hood or oppression.

They will be at your job soon. Publicly shaming you or reporting you to HR for using the wrong word or asking "Did you and your girlfriend do anything fun this weekend?"

Sources:

http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/27028/

http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/27984/

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-codd...

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise...

note to readers: victimhood and oppression do exist and I am not trying to belittle the very real experiences of many people in our society.


>They will be at your job soon. Publicly shaming you or reporting you to HR for using the wrong word or asking "Did you and your girlfriend do anything fun this weekend?"

Be careful on that slippery slope!


I'm not using partner instead of girlfriend just in case some third party might get their fee fees hurt. This is insanity. The linked articles provide many absurd examples. This isn't a slippery slope, this is stupidity personified.


> I'm not using partner instead of girlfriend just in case some third party might get their fee fees hurt. This is insanity.

Really, you're not willing to be mindful of your language to respect someone else's wishes? Also, "fee fees" really shows your level of thought and respect for other people so maybe I didn't need to even ask.


How is calling someone's girlfriend a girlfriend offensive?


>give examples

I wouldn't even know where to start.

How about: a belligerent country invades your sovereign and abuses and kills the populace. That's happened repeatedly, to millions of people, throughout history.


Your last sentence pretty much nailed it. I believe that is exactly the message they are sending. I went to UChicago, and this is a core ideal that is part of what makes the school so great.


It's important to acknowledge that the term "safe space" means different things to different people.

To the Yale protestors (who were widely supported at UChicago) the entirety of university housing at Yale was meant to be a "safe space," so it was incumbent on the university to fire professors who voiced unwelcome opinions in that space.

To many of the people who are angry about this letter, "safe space" means a support-group-like room in a specific place at a specific time, which doesn't interfere with the rest of the university's operations.

I suspect it is the former which Dean Ellison meant to attack. I find it hard to believe that he's trying to shut down, for example, group therapy programs for LGBTQ youth offered by the psychology arm of the university's student health system. But I do appreciate him sending the message, "we're not going to fire professors because you don't like what they said."


I think you nailed it here. My safe space is Alcoholics Anonymous, and having that safe space probably saved my life.

It's unfortunate that the term has been somewhat taken over and always incites such ferocious debate on HN and other communities on the internet. I doubt anyone here is against there being LGBTQ support or Narcotic Anonymous groups on campus.


Yeah, all these words mean different things to the Social Justice/Progressive left and the rest of us.

It's one of the surest tells that a movement is wrong when they refuse to use the regular meanings of words and start redefining them in their own usage. People who are right never have to resort to such contrivances.


You're absolutely correct, and this illuminates an aspect of the controversy that I don't think gets quite enough coverage: where did the social justice/progressive left students learn about the terminology and ideology they advocate?

They almost certainly didn't learn it in high school, from their peers in high school, or from their parents. (Although that may be changing.)

They learned these things at the university, from professors, and from fellow students who learned from the same professors.

In other words, academia brought this situation upon itself by teaching these things to students -- -- so I'm rather leery of analyses which blame millennials for pushing a self-indulgent worldview on universities. If the same ideas had been taught to previous generations of students, they too would have advocated trigger warnings and safe spaces.


>They learned these things at the university, from professors, and from fellow students who learned from the same professors.

I know what all of these things mean, and I didn't learn any of them from college, I learned them from reading blog posts and things online.


I'm sure a lot of other people did too, but I suspect the vast majority of college students never heard those things until they arrived at college.


Which is why I'm sure you use the word "colored" (or worse) instead of african/african-american, homosexual instead of gay, tranny instead of transwoman/transman, and similar?

After all, words are just irrelevant symbol strings on top of a meaning, right? If you're not really racist, it shouldn't matter if you only ever refer to people of the global majority by slurs. The surest tell a movement is wrong is when they refuse to use the regular meanings of words.


If we're trying to communicate and understand the world together, what specific words we use don't matter, only that we agree on what they mean. We could even speak a completely non English language.

If you're instead trying to show which American political tribe you belong to, the concerns you mention become very important.


Found the sjw.


I think you are right. Here is the page from the Chicago LGBTQ student group on how they implement and create safe spaces for students: https://lgbtq.uchicago.edu/page/safe-space


While I agree with you, I think it's worth noting that Yale's system of on-campus housing is drastically different than that at most universities. The residential college system offers much closer and personal interactions with a set of deans, faculty, and staff that is reinforced over the entire four years at the school. Whatever one's stance on the Yale controversy, I think it's important to distinguish Yale's housing system from standard college dorms.


I'm personally somewhat familiar with the distinction, but I don't really see how it's relevant. Pretty much every college dorm, including those that are less tight knit and personal than Yale's system, offers a safe space and protection from harassment. If anything, the fact that Yale fosters closer relationships with administrators and faculty should make it _more_ likely that students would take gentle advice from their house master with equanimity instead of unhinged screaming and calls for his ouster.


> If anything, the fact that Yale fosters closer relationships with administrators and faculty should make it _more_ likely that students would take gentle advice from their house master with equanimity instead of unhinged screaming and calls for his ouster.

That's one way it's relevant, to answer your first sentence. The fact that Yale fosters this family-esque relationship with peers, faculty, and deans is one of the contributing factors to extremely emotional response of the protesters, right or wrong. This fact was glossed over in almost all media reportings.


Chicago also fosters this family-esque relationship in housing, but also builds its identity on students in housing common spaces debating (including topics with political relevance) over meals and long into the night.


Absolutely. But what he actually said was "we don't condone 'safe spaces'".


The charitable way of interpreting that is "The university as an organization will not lend their institutional support for enforcing 'safe spaces'. If you want one, make it and enforce it yourself"


That's not what "condone" means. And, with trigger warnings he explicitly said they don't support them - so it's reasonable to assume that if he meant "support' here that's what he would have said.


Is that really what "we don't condone" means?


What I don't get about this is why trigger warnings and safe spaces always seem to get lumped together in discussions like this.

It's really hard to actually create a safe space. You have to actively intervene to prevent (or provide redress for) the "wrong" kinds of speech. I can totally see why a university would not think safe spaces were worth it, or even consistent with their goals.

But trigger warnings are a really simple common courtesy. There was a popular meme spread around the Fourth of July to be considerate of veterans who may be distressed by the sound of fireworks. If you think this is a consideration worth extending to a veteran, it seems perfectly consistent that you'd want survivors of rape or abuse to know that a discussion of rape or abuse was coming up.


I'd argue that it's equally as impossible to set up trigger warning policies.

While some trigger warning like the ones you mentioned are valid, the term has been perverted to include all sorts of things[0] where you could get in trouble for talking in public about insects or needles.

It's an impossible task to list out and educate people on everything that might possible trouble or offend. Once you open that door, there is no finite end to a list of triggers.

[0] http://privilege101.tumblr.com/triggers.html


Many news outlets will say "Warning, the following story contains graphic imagery," and people don't think this is unreasonable; nor do they expect more specific content warnings in the future. This tells me it's possible to be considerate of common triggers while still drawing the line somewhere


> This tells me it's possible to be considerate of common triggers while still drawing the line somewhere

I agree it is, but right now it's very difficult to have the discussions necessary to draw those lines—supporters of trigger warnings only want to discuss the cases where they're clearly justified (fireworks & veterans) and pretend all uses are similarly valid, and critics of trigger warnings only want to discuss the cases where they're clearly not (slimy things), and pretend that all uses are similarly invalid. Determining where the lines should be drawn will be a long, complicated, painful discussion, but currently there's no way to have that conversation. If your opinion is somewhere in the middle, most internet commentators will lump you into the all-for or all-against group.


I agree it is, but right now it's very difficult to have the discussions necessary to draw those lines

When something is 1) subjective or very hard to measure and 2) used as an emotional bludgeon then then people are going to call "shenanigans" and even start to exhibit knee-jerk doubt about such things. Often, this is a tragedy, as the issues may well be both real and difficult to discuss.

The quality of such debate and discussion has been hurt by the "Eternal September" nature of online discussion. The internet gives everyone a voice, especially if you have time to waste. Hence, clueless Freshmen and middle-schoolers have disproportionately loud voices online.


That's a good point. Internet commenters tend to overgeneralize. Fortunately, those people aren't strictly needed for a solution. The only party who needs to listen is the content provider (in my example, the news outlet).


> Many news outlets will say "Warning, the following story contains graphic imagery,"

Since blood leads, this is, in my personal estimation, done primarily to increase immediate viewer count, not avoid - and thus retain in the more distant future - discomfiting sensitive current viewers.


> Many news outlets will say "Warning, the following story contains graphic imagery," and people don't think this is unreasonable

Yes, but students shouldn't expect that warning before a class on horror films. If you're unable to see graphic imagery, you should drop the class.

Similarly, students shouldn't expect to be warned about a discussion of slavery in a course about the American civil war. And you really shouldn't be able to get a degree in American history if you're unable to study the civil war.


No that's totally different. Broadcast news programs are often watched by small children. Parents reasonably want to shield children from graphic content which they are too immature to understand. However university students are almost entirely adults and thus expected to have the intellectual and emotional maturity to deal with the real world unfiltered.


"[0] http://privilege101.tumblr.com/triggers.html"

from the list:

- Pregnancy/childbirth

- Death or dying

- Slimy things

It's very difficult not to dismiss this as infantile.


> It's very difficult not to dismiss this as infantile.

Which is, in turn, why many people don't take these things seriously. Of course, perhaps there is a justification for "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" in colleges, but the issue of whether those 1) belong in the classroom as opposed to elsewhere on campus, and 2) should be a feature of colleges at all, is completely derailed by things like this.


At the same time, in a country that values free speech people are allowed to have idiotic opinions. The fact that people are giving those opinions credence because they are "on the Internet" is probably closer to the issue.


Really? You don't think people are capable of being traumatized by pregnancy, death, or insects? Personal injury and insects are among the most common phobias and pregnancy should be fairly obvious as to why it's on that list (I don't want to elaborate because that could be traumatizing).

Maybe you should try having more empathy for oppressed groups and individuals rather than writing off anything you can't immediately connect to your own experience as infantile.


"Maybe you should try having more empathy for oppressed groups and individuals rather than writing off anything you can't immediately connect to your own experience as infantile."

None of the items I listed involve oppression or special subgroups of people. They are basic components of the human condition.

An inability to deal with the basic aspects of being alive is, ipso facto, infantile.


Pregnancy predominantly effects women. If I need to argue that women are oppressed, I don't think we can have a discussion. Phobias effect the neurodivergent and your dismissal of this is ableist.

You're inserting your own value system, via the word "basic." It's indisputable that anything is an "aspect" of "being alive," but whether something is too "basic" to warrant consideration is entirely your construction. It is reactionary to dismiss oppressed peoples' self-descriptions of their oppressions. It would be progressive of you to listen to the oppressed and learn how to be a better ally. Do you want to be reactionary and backwards-thinking or progressive and forwards-thinking? How do you want to be remembered?


Whether or not they can be traumatized is not the issue. If those things traumatize someone, they should be getting personal professional care, not wastefully burdening every institution and individual they interact with.


You don't need a trigger warning policy, necessarily. Just a culture that promotes being aware of common triggers. This notice goes in the opposite direction.

>It's an impossible task to list out and educate people on everything that might possible trouble or offend. Once you open that door, there is no finite end to a list of triggers.

It's not necessary to exhaust the full list. Analogously: it's impossible to list out and educate people on every form of negative externality, but we still have laws to address the big ones, and that helps.


What is really needed is the common sense and personal decision to get help with issues which are distressing so that reminders of those issues doesn't cause anxiety, stress, or a break-down.


>Just a culture that promotes being aware of common triggers.

I'd argue we pretty much already have this. Most people are aware of when a delicate topic is delicate and will treat it as such or avoid it, depending on the context. Trigger warnings seem to be a hammer in search of a nail, or more likely to me, something that was perhaps well intentioned at one point that is now just a means of attention seeking.


> While some trigger warning like the ones you mentioned are valid, the term has been perverted to include all sorts of things[0] where you could get in trouble for talking in public about insects or needles.

This is going to sound like a bad joke.

Fear of needles are more legitimate than might appear at first blush. Those of us with a needle phobia will experience a sudden drop in blood pressure, precipitating unconsciousness. In some cases this leads to death, making it one of the few phobias that can outright kill you.

I had the good fortune to undergo desensitization via allergy shots.


> If you think this is a consideration worth extending to a veteran, it seems perfectly consistent that you'd want survivors of rape or abuse to know that a discussion of rape or abuse was coming up.

And at what point does it stop? Who decides what is a trigger warning?

If someone is afraid of wolves. Must I now stop wearing my wolf shirts?

When does it simply turn into censorship and shutting down topics and discussions you don't want to have?

If someone has a personal issue, what gives them the right to force their issues on others? Why must everyone adapt to them?


I suspect that there are more sexual assault survivors than combat trauma survivors, so if your threshold is the incidence of combat-traumatized veterans, then you don't need to extend the limit further to include sexual assault survivors.


I didn't hear anyone say that a trigger warning means "shutting down topics and discussions". Isn't the whole point that it is a warning: that the topic is going to be discussed, and that you're giving a heads up so that folks can brace themselves if necessary (or make arrangements to engage with the material in another way).

Maybe some definitions of "safe space" mean "shut down topics and discussions", but trigger warnings are specifically about having conversations, in a considerate way.


I don't think people generally include every possible phobia on the list. It quickly gets out of hand if you try to take into consideration everything beforehand, no matter how rare it is. What about people with acousticophobia, chromophobia, genuphobia, hyelophobia, or pogonophobia? No sound or music, no colors, no visible knees (dress code! no skirts), no windows or glass cups, and no beards!

But if you know someone with xanthophobia, maybe don't wear a yellow shirt to their dinner party?

I have an issue with safe spaces and trigger warnings. They aren't usually thought of being helpful by many, if not most, professionals. If anything, they are considered actively harmful for the "triggered" individual and increase depression.

They're a feel-good measure so people can believe they are being considerate of others and announce it to the world. "Look how thoughtful and considerate of others I am being!" While letting them deride anyone who claims otherwise as being an asshole.


I think you're missing the part where they are victims, and all we're trying to do is minimize the damage. That's a calculated risk that each person is going to have to take for themselves.


They were victims; they're not actively victims in the moment of a discussion. The damage has already been done. Conversely, you can say that you're helping with the recovery and healing process. But it's important to acknowledge the aspects of the past, present and future as they relate to trauma.


Causing someone a panic attack in the present is not damage that "has already been done".


They're not experiencing a new incidence of trauma, they're reliving one.

A more "physical" corollary would be the "ghost" limb sensation for someone who has lost one. That person doesn't lose their limb every time the sensation comes and goes away -- it was lost before and after the incident. It may be painful sure, but who says that recovery and healing is without pain? One of the leading methods of treating PTSD being studied is having combat veterans relive a similar incident through a controlled environment.


>Must I now stop wearing my wolf shirts?

That's probably a good idea either way...


Nothing about trigger warnings requires immediately jumping down the slippery slope of putting "WARNING: CHEESE INSIDE" on the refrigerator door.


Though we do put "Warning: may contain peanuts" on bags of roasted peanuts, so it's not like we haven't done some sliding before.


People can die from peanuts though. It was not there on a whim (though I would argue is more to avoid lawsuits)


Slippery slope arguments are too easy to make. Let's start with being considerate towards veterans with PTSD and see how that goes.


> What I don't get about this is why trigger warnings and safe spaces always seem to get lumped together in discussions like this.

Because they are involve quite similar problems (safe for whom and from what? Warnings for which specific of the billions of potential PTSD triggers?) and are typically advocated for together, by the same people, as linked demands, to serve similar broad purposes.

> But trigger warnings are a really simple common courtesy.

No, they aren't. They are neither simple, nor are they, in fact, a common courtesy (whether or not you think they should be a common courtesy.)

> There was a popular meme spread around the Fourth of July to be considerate of veterans who may be distressed by the sound of fireworks.

There were actual several different ones, most of which were variations on combat veterans with signs at their homes asking for consideration and restraint.

> If you think this is a consideration worth extending to a veteran, it seems perfectly consistent that you'd want survivors of rape or abuse to know that a discussion of rape or abuse was coming up.

(1) Expecting people to, proactively and without knowledge of the particular trauma experienced by or triggers relevant to the audience, provide "trigger warnings" is exactly the reverse of the kind of specific and personal request for consideration at issue in the meme, and

(2) Triggering with PTSD is, in fact, quite complicated, but most often (AFAIK) involves sensory stimuli that are associated with the instance(s) of trauma producing the condition, such as sights, sounds, smells, etc. that were present during the trauma. Discussion of the class of event that relates to the trauma may be areas of strong emotional context and political sensitivity to many people (whether or not they are victims of that particular kind of trauma), but nothing I've read of actual PTSD and triggering suggests that they are particular likely to be triggers in the strict sense, even to victims of the trauma under discussion -- even to victims that do have PTSD and do have genuine, identifiable triggers.

(3) Proactive trigger warnings not based on the real known specific triggers applicable to a specific audience, if one isn't to give priority to certain type of traumas and certain presumed triggers associated with that trauma as "more deserving", quickly turn everything into a mass of warnings, most of which are irrelevant even to people who have PTSD originating in the type of trauma the warning is focused on.


I think you're making this way more complicated than it needs to be.

The point of extending the courtesy of trigger warnings isn't that you will, with 100% certainty, prevent anyone from entering a state of psychological distress. That's obviously not attainable.

But let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There's really obvious stuff that instructors could warn about, but aren't. After I posted a similar sentiment on Facebook, a TA told me about their professor showing porn (featuring torture) in class. Who could have known that the majority-female class she was showing this to would contain some rape victims that left the classroom in tears?! Totally out of the blue, that.

Now, I don't expect anyone to know that aging wood with thin brown flaking paint is evocative of the assault I experienced; that would be ridiculous. But of course descriptions of assaults themselves are going to be evocative.

In short, there's really easy low-hanging fruit here, and I hope people aren't so turned off by the unattainable goals of safe spaces and 100% trigger coverage that they don't extend the courtesy of warning for really obvious, foreseeable triggers.


I think that many of the arguments again safe spaces, trigger warnings, and actually most things are subject to the Nirvana Fallacy [1].

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_fallacy


First, the very act of learning can cause psychological distress. It may involve being forced to consider that some of your long-cherished ideas are wrong. This creates a crisis since either you abandon the wrong idea you've held or you ignore the new information you've acquired.

One of the most effective ways of learning is to hear and consider ideas opposed to the ones you currently hold. But these kinds of things (trigger warnings and safe spaces) act to prevent this. It inhibits learning. Sheltering people's preconceptions is the perfect way to prevent them from learning to think independently, which is opposite to the reason for going to school. Or at least, used to be.

Second, what the hell kind of professor shows porn to their class!? The warning required in that case is that the professor is unfit to teach, and/or the course offered is unworthy of any curriculum. I'm not a prude, and I can imagine perhaps some sort of graduate criminal psychology class where that might be justifiable, but it seems some sort of written description would do just fine even then.


In my grandparent post, I advocate treating trigger warnings and safe spaces separately. I have no intention of defending safe spaces in a university context.

Trigger warnings do not prevent the consideration of any particular idea. They help students choose the best time to engage with the material in question. If you've been warned that a particular piece of content is potentially disturbing, you can schedule your reading (or viewing) for when you're ready- so afterwards you can actually think about it instead of attending to your screaming autonomic nervous system.


Your post is an amazing contradiction, all within about 20 seconds. An incredible read!

< One of the most effective ways of learning is to hear and consider ideas opposed to the ones you currently hold.

< Second, what the hell kind of professor shows porn to their class!?

Am I missing some joke or sarcasm? I'm normally pretty good at detecting it in text. How can you advocate for learning to explore all ideas, even if they may seem opposite to what you (or others) may hold and at the same time say its repugnant that a teacher would show a taboo idea in video form?


No joke or sarcasm. While I advocate being exposed to different ideas and opinions, I still think there are some subjects that are not worthy of rational consideration as academic subjects, especially for undergrads.

I recognize this is an unpopular view. To go even further down the unpopular path, I also maintain that many of our colleges and universities have failed in their evaluation of what a formal education should include and exclude. For example, I have had the unhappy experience of hiring many new graduates who cannot write complete sentences, let alone organize their thoughts into some coherent whole with a beginning, middle, and end. I'm told that kind of thing doesn't matter any more, but I disagree. It reflects their thought process, which affects their ability to make good business decisions.

Also, parent post was about the trauma caused when rape victims were exposed to same without warning. Apparently it's not that uncommon to think this subject is taboo for a reason.


I'm confused. Did she spring the porn on them? Did she just hit play as soon as everyone sat down without preamble or context? The students had no opportunity to object or excuse themselves beforehand? If that's how that actually played out, then that professor is either tone-deaf, or used to students with more...mettle?


Indeed. The term "trigger warning" seems to have been coined to give unjustified moral weight to the idea of content warnings, by implying their absence causes PTSD attacks, rather than just being material upsetting to many people.

And I can't help thinking that, like many ideas from social justice, overly moralising a reasonable idea has made it much less palatable that it might otherwise have been.


>And I can't help thinking that, like many ideas from social justice, overly moralising a reasonable idea has made it much less palatable that it might otherwise have been.

...Sounds familiar...

"...much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help. For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or dogmatic terms? Obviously it would be more productive to take a diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabo...


>> But trigger warnings are a really simple common courtesy.

>No, they aren't. They are neither simple, nor are they,

You are mostly right, but there is danger here.

Traditional courtesy and political correctness do overlap a lot -- they tell us to do the same sort of things. They are not the same. As you suggest, personal consideration is not the same as political sensitivity.

But when the backlash against PC comes, that too is a kind of political sensitivity. Fear of being PC can lead people to be offensive when they would otherwise have been polite.


Clarifying question: What do you mean by "fear of being PC"? I'm a bit confused about the scenario you're describing.


Not the GP, but referring to the more broad anti-PC movement... Lets say The War On (the war on) Christmas. Fear of being PC in a context like that may work out as somebody avoiding the term "Hanukkah", even while speaking about / to a Jewish person, for fear of papering over Christmas, or looking like they're trying to change the name of the holiday.

Some other anti-PC things, like use of the term "black people" in preference to "people of color" or "african-americans"; Or describing men and women in drastically different terms, or painting them as inevitably vastly different (to avoid papering over the differences or making them look non-existent) are their own kind of cultural sensitivity. Or in some cases, even a similar sort of language policing that has long been attributed to political-correctness, just on avoiding terms that people view as originating from it.


Thanks for explaining that. Is this a thing that happens? I've heard of Christians grumble when the PC crowd demands that some business/school/etc stop using Christmas-specific greetings/decorations/etc. I've also heard white people grumble when the PC crowd insists everyone use a new designation for 'African Americans', but I've never heard of anyone actually exerting social pressure on others to use un-PC terms. In other words, I've never heard of anyone being told off for saying "African-Americans" or "Happy Holidays". Perhaps my experiences are atypical?


My experiences (including through the American mass media) are the reverse of yours where Christmas is concerned. I've literally never seen someone attacked for references to Christmas, but i have seen a larger faction complaining about a "War on Christmas" and attacking people and institutions for using genetic holiday greetings, etc., and not specifically acknowledging Christmas, even sometimes attacking, on this basis, institutions which do specifically acknowledge Christmas out of hypersensitivity.


Wow, this surprises me, as I've been surrounded by Christians most of my life. I'm less surprised by the media, however--they're not very charitable in their representations of Christians (e.g., the Starbucks cup fiasco was literally one guy complaining about the cup design, but the media made it out to be some sizable portion of Christians). At any rate, do you perceive anti-PC pressure to be so prevalent as to be a legitimate concern? Do you think it would sway the speech of the average person toward legitimately offensive terms?


"black people" isn't necessarily anti-PC. Lots of people identify that way in preference to African-American. (And PoC is a wider group, not an equivalent alternative.)


I can't decide whether or not I'm playing devil's advocate with this question. In any case, please don't take it too seriously, but I think it might be interesting.

Why did you not include a trigger warning about the discussion of rape in your comment?


"Mention of rape" and "discussion of rape in enough detail to cause discomfort" are not the same thing.


I'm sure we can find someone who is uncomfortable at the mere mention of the word. Not that we should necessarily accommodate such extremes, but how do you decide where to draw the line?


You work together to find a reasonable balance between accommodating the most common and severe trauma triggers without shutting down general discussion.

For example, there are people who were raped by a man with a deep voice and are triggered by men with deep voices. That's a really shitty situation to be in, but it's unreasonably onerous to expect deep-voiced men to warn everyone in the vicinity (perhaps with a sign) before speaking, especially since there are very few people with that particular trigger. Asking people to give a warning before they intend to discuss rape in detail is not onerous, and it helps a rather larger number of people.

Edit: I'd really like to know why this is getting downvoted.


I actually know someone who just shuts down and freezes for a few minutes at the mere mention of the word "rape". This person has made their discomfort known to their friends and requested the word be avoided in conversation, which is an easy enough request to comply with out of courtesy.

Note that this is a group of people drawn from 4chan and adjacent communities whose primary socialization is voip and online games, all areas known for a "challenging" discussion environment. The line seems to be, in this case, that one can reasonably expect to carve out a "safe space" among family and friends, but not total strangers.


If we try to have a culture that considers trigger warnings a courtesy worth extending, rather than having a policy saying yes/no, then the question of where the line should be drawn can be answered by each instructor as they see fit.

It's likely that a few obviously triggering things can be labelled as such and good can be derived from that even if we can't or shouldn't label everything.


You guess and invite people to correct you if you're wrong? How is anything that requires judgement decided? Eventually there will be an accepted norm but at the beginning there never is.


That's a nice solution if everything is more or less working properly. The problem is, "What do you do when they tell you you're wrong about everything?"

One of the links in the article was to an article by a law professor talking about the difficulty of teaching rape and sexual assault law. The point being made there was that the entire subject has become off-limits -- literally, a large number of her colleagues had simply elected not to teach it anymore.

If your complaint is that, today, students are demanding an abuse of the notion of trigger warnings and safe spaces to effectively prevent exposure to potentially upsetting discussions, and that we are harming the long-term development of students by doing so, then by definition, you believe the corrections you'd get would essentially take the form "bring back all the trigger warnings we had when you started this process".


That might be true, but there are a variety of cases where we've decided to stop using a word in general in order to avoid causing undue distress; "slave" (i/r/t "master" and "slave") in a computing context is now generally always phrased in another way, for example.


That's mostly self-contained on Github. Where busybodies have little else to do but open issues on projects in the name of social justice without ever contributing to the project itself in a meaningful manner. See: /r/gitinaction

The word "master" was also under fire not too long ago. They replaced it with "head". I'm honestly surprised a certain political group haven't jumped at the opportunity to get "head" replaced due to being too phalic.

[0] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3464182/Harvard-Univ...


> "slave" (i/r/t "master" and "slave") in a computing context is now generally always phrased in another way, for example

I need to educate myself. What do people use instead of "slave device" in computing?


Databases have been using master/replica lately, which, fortuitously is (usually) actually slightly more precise anyway, and so is strictly better in every way


The projects I've seen have gone with "leader/follower" https://github.com/django/django/commit/8a95b4fca793eeb8adce...


So, the solution is to literally use Führer instead of Master?

That’s a great choice, not only reprinting tons of literature, changing tons of code, but also choosing a Nazi analogy instead!

Every word triggers someone, society can’t be expected to adapt to anyone.

And I’ll continue to use Master/Slave, and continue to support the Sinter Klaas and Zwarte Piet tradition in the Netherlands.


No, it's literally to use 'leader'. Not a German word that has a rather specific meaning when used in languages outside of German (although I suppose it's at least somewhat loaded in Germany too).


It’s severely loaded in German, and how’d you teach students about "leader/follower" without translating that part?

There’s something like other languages, which you translate to for documentation or teaching purposes, which means the German material will either have only this one in english (which leads to everyone immediately realizing why), or just using Führer.

That’s not in any way solving the issue.

For every word, there is a context in which it is offensive. Just stop caring about that, instead of trying to do the impossible for no benefit.


I can't remember which, but I saw one project change to "primary/secondary".


"Servant". I prefer "slave".


That just gives me an intense urge to use master/slave all over the place.


I've went the opposite direction. I now describe the organization of a typical plantation in mid-19th century America as being run by a white leader with black followers doing the work.


That's the kind of absurd oversensitivity that opponents of trigger warnings are against.


Very much not generally nor always.

Source: I am a professional high-volume database guy doing this stuff since the mid 1990's and still deeply embedded with it now.

There are projects that have chosen other nouns, and they have ridden the wave of publicity around this, but by my estimation* more than 90% of database-related projects still use master/slave.

*as in I haven't done any formal record-keeping, nor will I.


Citation? I remember someone going around with PRs to change things and being roundly laughed out.


At least in the world of electrical engineering, you are quite incorrect. There are masters and slaves all over the place around here.


Mentioning the word rape is not a discussion of rape.


The article links to another on teaching rape law to criminal-law students.[1] From that article:

  One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not 
  to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this 
  conduct violate the law?”—because the word was 
  triggering.
So in some cases, even mentioning the word is included in this issue.

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trouble-teaching-rap...


I would call that an unreasonable request. But that doesn't invalidate the existence of reasonable requests.


I would agree. (And was responding to the parent comment.) It begs two questions, though:

1. What's "reasonable"?

2. Does the meaning of "reasonable" change? (E.g., a criminal-law class vs. a computer science class) To me, this could be redefined as "topic appropriateness".


1. If I started posting the N-word over and over again this very moment, you would instinctively consider that unreasonable, so let's stop pretending to not know the definitions of things.

2. You can't rigorously define the boundaries of context.

With those two axioms, we can conclude that the root of the matter, which protecting the feelings of children who have been catered to their whole lives, is not a path worthy of resource or virtue. These are the same overmedicated people who simulanteously hold the belief they are just specks of dust in the universe while screaming about the importance of their feelings. Too many TED talks, not enough TED debates.

They are of zero consequence when you account for these factors.


I was with you on the first two points. I'm not sure how you got from there to the third.

> With those two axioms, we can conclude that the root of the matter, which protecting the feelings of children who have been catered to their whole lives, is not a path worthy of resource or virtue.

No, the root of the matter is protecting sexual assault victims with PTSD. Certainly some entitled children have tried to hijack that train for their own petty benefit, but we don't eliminate Medicaid just because Medicaid cheats exist. (Well, most of us don't.)

You're quite right that you can't rigorously define the values of context: something can only work with broad guidelines interpreted on a case-by-case basis. That does not mean that they're completely unaddressable and we shouldn't bother. People are not machines.


I never said the problem wasn't addressable. I said the types of people “safe spaces” are supposedly "protecting" are of zero consequence. As long as they are engulfed by their trauma, they are literally, of zero consequence. The problem of handling trauma is very addressable: Eliminate the safe space.

To elaborate, we have to talk about the nature of neurons and, specifically, neural plasticity.

Trauma is trauma (regardless of mass media campaigns to favor one type of trauma over another on a monthly basis) and neurons adapt accordingly. (Not always optimally in regards to personal development in an industrial context, mind you) Most importantly, they also heal accordingly. VR/AR experiments show the important of the visual cortex in rewiring the neural systems of paraplegics, allowing them to move their feet. This clearly shows the need of people to experience the world beyond what they have already modeled to be a reality to overcome massive trauma.

If people who have literally endured physical destruction of parts of the spinal column can utilize therapy to reprogram massive regions of the neurology to restore some physical functionality to a previously unrecoverable fate, I'm left with no choice but call into question the entire premise of "the safe space" and what function it is actually serving. (Other than unofficial voter turnout rallies)

Neurons are feisty things and to undermine their amazing abilities by claiming an individual's trauma is beyond neural plasticity is ultimately discrediting the fundamental humanness of the people you are aiming to protect. You are effectively saying "This victim is so broken and so subhuman, not even their neurons work anymore." In essence, you are the one saying people are machines because your altruism has concluded they are incapable of engaging in neural plasticity, and thus, must be denied sensory input via safe spaces to reflect that incapacitation.

Protecting the traumatized from what YOU think they should be protected from ultimately deprives them of the experiences and opportunities that neurons need to adapt to the trauma. No one heals in a jail cell of sensory denial, no matter how well-intentioned the warden. Thus, putting rigid borders on context will always fail, even if you are successful in the feat.

Have a little bit more faith that two billion years of biological evolution knows slightly more about itself than a few hundred thousand Xanga/LiveJournal ex-pats who are spending their 30s in one last angsty hurrah on Tumblr.

I realize this conclusion regarding the necessity of novel and unpredictable experiences to assist in trauma recovery contends against the widespread obsession of pathological altruism; the idea that those who mean well must do anything regardless of efficacy. This explains why Medicaid will always exist, no matter how many ill-willed scammers or high-power lobbyists game the system to their respective favors. Pathological altruism dictates that no cancer can ever be large enough, even as it devours the system whole. This just creates an ecosystem of competing parasites that undermines the legitimacy of that altruism via Poe's Law. Eventually, recruitment drives start to fail as essential outsiders and new blood no longer view your altruism as meaningful. Then it's off to the next monthly flavor of altruism, which is the same as the last one, all made up of the same previous players, but now with slick new branding to attract the freshly unaligned and uninitiated!


The use-mention distinction is a sensitive subject for me, so I would appreciate getting a warning next time you allude to it. Thanks!


You're making fun of the sensitivities and stress experienced by some people after they are raped. Nice one.


(Not all that sure myself) Perhaps because it's difficult to simulate the brain of all the other readers and reasonably anticipate offense. Like I know rape happens and describing it in detail might be something that most people are asking for 'trigger warnings' about. But only because it's been talked about. I actually can't simulate the brain of a rape victim and anticipate such things independently.


When a trigger warning is announced, a triggering concept is mentioned. When a triggering concept is mentioned, people are triggered. Soon, people associate trigger warnings with the triggered symptoms.

We need a trigger warning about trigger warnings.


With regard to veterans and fireworks, I think that would actually be an example of a "safe space", in that the vets in question are demanding that neighbors not celebrate America's independence within a given radius of their homes. They're not asking for a heads-up before people shoot off roman candles...they're saying, don't do it near my house, period.

FWIW, I don't think this is a consideration worth extending to veterans, and I am dismayed by the fact that many vets have embraced the culture of competitive victimhood that has infected much of American popular discourse.

With that said I do think that a professor giving a heads-up to students that they're going to discuss uncomfortable topics (e.g., rape) in class is probably the right thing to do, within reason (e.g., if it's going to be the central theme of that day's discussion).


> With that said I do think that a professor giving a heads-up to students that they're going to discuss uncomfortable topics (e.g., rape) in class is probably the right thing to do, within reason (e.g., if it's going to be the central theme of that day's discussion).

I'd disagree with that. If it's central to the lecture, it should be essential/relevant to the course. If it's not, there's no reason to bring it up in the first place.

The concept of a trigger wasn't created as something to be avoided. Identifying a trigger is the first step in identifying and dealing with the underlying psychological issue. It's similar with safe spaces. They are things that people need post-trauma to help recovery. It's not meant to be a permanent need or something that should be broadened to the world at large.

Your therapist creates a safe space for you to discuss your triggers.


> I don't think this is a consideration worth extending to veterans, and I am dismayed by the fact that many vets have embraced the culture of competitive victimhood that has infected much of American popular discourse.

That seems a bit callous. Care to elaborate? I don't think they are usually framing these as "demands", and I don't see how asking for this consideration necessarily crosses into "competitive victimhood". Also, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, physical stimuli are the type of "actual" triggers than can cause real panic attacks in those with PTSD, unlike verbal discussions of uncomfortable topics which can cause emotional distress but not true panic attacks.


Elaboration as follows: I think that people putting signs on their lawn asking others to be considerate in their fireworks usage is less an effort to avoid PTSD triggers and more a misguided attempt to gain attention and recognition. It also has the effect of reinforcing the "veterans are damaged goods" narrative that is pervasive through much of our popular culture.

More generally, PTSD is not what most vets have, it's PTS. It's not a disorder to be a bit agoraphobic when you come back from theater, or to drive in the middle of the road, or to have a short temper. These are natural responses to stimuli that dissipate over time. The best way to help people through these acquired reflexes is to treat them as normal people, not as special snowflakes in need of coddling.

Also, people putting signs on their lawns identifying themselves as combat veterans and saying "please be courteous" or whatever else....that's classic passive aggressive behavior that is a demand for all practical purposes.


I really like the language you used here.

I don't think veterans are the best example for this point, but I totally understand what you're trying to say. I say this because I've never had someone legitimately and purposefully try to end my life. I have no idea what that feels like. Therefore, there are some topics of discussion that I avoid when I'm around combat veterans.

I think your comment about "special snowflakes" hits the nail on the head. I've been using that phrase for years to describe the type of people that push the "trigger warning" and "safe space" rhetoric at universities and on the Internet. These people, for the most part, are not victims of significant trauma of the type to actually cause the types of disorders for which the term "trigger" was originally defined in the psychological community. These people are living the life of what I like to call "perpetual victim-hood" in order to garner attention and give meaning to their lives. These people choose to take this route because the other paths to a meaningful life are more difficult and require much more effort. Why actually invent something or do meaningful research when you can complain on the Internet and garner millions of followers who throw continuously resonating rhetoric into your own personal echo chamber?

This has become a bit of a rant. I apologize for that. I just get very frustrated with these kinds of things because I believe it stifles the spread of new ideas and hinders progress.


It's just not an equivalent analogy. Explosions sound and light are somewhat recreating a war time experience. The classroom equivalent for trigger warnings would be telling veterans that a discussion of a war in history class was coming.


I think you're looking for a depth of equivalence that I wasn't suggesting was there.

To further muddy things, you should know that explosions themselves don't produce the responses they do just in veterans. High-bandwidth sounds trigger an autonomic response as soon as they hit the brain stem- long before the cortex has a chance to think "I recognize that as an explosion", the brain stem said "HOLY SHIT SOMETHING IS HAPPENING". This mechanism is observed in rape and abuse survivors as well as veterans.


So in what classroom circumstances would a warning be necessary?

I'm all for being courteous, I just have serious concerns about giving college students the impression that the world around them needs to adjust to them rather than vice versa.


Examples of some obvious things that really shouldn't be too controversial:

Showing pictures of a massacre

Showing pictures or video from a war

Reading a graphic account of a soldier from war

Showing pictures of mass graves (esp where body parts are identifiable)

Showing pictures or video of a rape (even if a scene from a movie)

Showing pictures of the evidence from a rape

Reading a graphic account of a rape victim


A warning is never required. If you are unable to listen (or god forbid a disturbing image) to controversial issues that are literally occurring in real life you won't be able to handle the real world once college is over.


What does not being able to watch a beheading have to do with "handling the real world"?


These things do occur in real life. Granted I don't foresee a professor showing a beheading video in class. However, for the sake of discussion, if the class is about geopolitical theory/issues and the discussion is regarding how do we deal with terrorists. Maybe the student believes we should treat them with peace and love but has actually never dealt with this issue in real life. By all means show them a beheading video without warning to see how their opinion immediately changes.


People used to congregate for miles around to watch a good beheading. They sold beer and pastries, and people fought to dip their handkerchief in the blood of the executed. It was a grand entertainment.

Now we watch Bachelor in Paradise. I'm not sure it's an advancement.


So why does the concept of a warning exist at all then?


I don't think TWs should be required. But explicit descriptions or depictions of assault are pretty low-hanging fruit here.

By not making a policy, but encouraging a culture of learning about common triggers, we also encourage a more adaptive approach. If someone is distressed and they let you know, you can decide whether it makes sense to warn about that content in the future.


Further, presumably professional medicine recognizes fireworks as a common trigger for war-induced PTSD.


> But trigger warnings are really a simple common courtesy. Yes and no. Sure, it is courteous to warn folks of overly graphic material. But at the same time, if folks cannot handle discussing such things in a university setting, they should seek help. Which should be readily available and affordable. It also shouldn't be frowned upon if someone needs to leave the room in such a discussion - and teachers should be open to private requests for trigger warnings when appropriate... With the understanding that the person will or is seeking help as a condition.

> If you think this consideration worth extending to a veteran... But I don't. It isn't that I don't feel empathy for the veterans, but I think they should be offered (by the government) a safe place to go so they aren't triggered. This is a yearly event. And I think we (citizens and government) have a responsibility to provide help. The veteran has the responsibility to actually follow through with the help.


> But trigger warnings are a really simple common courtesy

Indeed. I see "Trigger warning" and I know I don't want to read what an author has to say.


Why do you think it would be hard on a college campus? You simply declare an office in a building to be a "safe space", or a space designated for certain groups and then promote, encourage the use of, and fill it with people that align with <idea>. Additionally, the safe space is placed in a building that is not funded by taxpayers, thus can be managed in basically whatever way the university sees fit (including denying access to the space).


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