University of Chicago Tells Incoming Students Not to Expect ‘Safe Spaces’ or ‘Trigger Warnings’

By Sameer Rao Aug 25, 2016

An official from one of the country’s most renowned universities instructed incoming freshman, in no uncertain terms, that it does not support "safe spaces" or "trigger warnings."

John Ellison, dean of students for The University of Chicago‘s undergraduate school, sent a letter with that message to the school’s incoming class of 2020. The letter described actions taken to promote safe spaces for certain ideas and include trigger warnings for potentially distressing content or texts as antithetical to the school’s "committment to freedom of inquiry and expression":


Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.


Fostering the free exchange of ideas reinforces a related University policy—building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community. The members of our community must have the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.

While universities around the country debated safe spaces and trigger warnings for many years, the debates took on new meaning last year as students at the University of Missouri and other schools protested against administrators’ non-action in instances of campus racism. The debates often pit those arguing that these concepts violate free speech and academic freedom against those who see them as instrumental in fighting endemic campus discrimination.

(H/t Inside Higher Ed)