The University of Chicago has recently released a letter to incoming freshmen blatantly telling the new students how the university will no longer censor any information that may be traumatic to students.
“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’” wrote John Ellison, the university’s dean of students.
Ellison also informs freshmen that the college will not create safe spaces for students to retreat from topics that might make them uncomfortable. University of Chicago is pushing their students to face events that might send them into a state of shock if said student has had a traumatic experience or suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, better identified as PTSD.
The fact that the university has decided that they will no longer take student feelings into consideration raises the question of how long before other things become socially acceptable on campus? There is surely a heavily defined line on right and wrong, but if the Dean has declared they will not offer trigger-warnings or safe spaces, where on campus will students feel safe? If they are forced to deal with issues that could possibly send them into any sort of attack, where on campus can students collect themselves and feel safe from the trauma they have endured?
College is supposed to be a new experience; for many it is a fresh start and an escape from the lives they once led. Unfortunately for the students at the University of Chicago, college can no longer be a means for either if they are forced to look into their pasts and receive a grade on it.
In an interview, Chicago graduate Cameron Okeke said that she used safe spaces throughout her four years at the school, not to hide from topics she could not face, but to heal from the hate and ignorance that was brought upon her every day. Okeke also stated that if someone wants the opinion of a student who suffers from PTSD, then trigger warnings should definitely be offered.
“Classrooms should not be a form of exposure therapy,” said Okeke.
She has a point. The classroom should be a place of learning and an enjoyment of said learning. It should not be a place where a student goes to be reminded of the trauma or discrimination they have dealt with their entire lives. A classroom should be a safe haven, where the only things they have to worry about are tests and homework. The student should not have to walk into a classroom with fear that the professor will be covering a subject that is too harmful for them to focus.
The University of Chicago needs to reevaluate their approach. Not only are they causing harm to their own students, but they are also causing their campus more harm. If students are forced to face the topics that negatively effect them, then how will students who do not have PTSD or undergone severe trauma feel about the students who have? Other students can be cruel, and if a student with PTSD shows symptoms during a lecture, said student will more than likely be mocked and ostracized.
In a last attempt to open the eyes of John Ellison, please let the professors give out trigger warnings for students who actually need them. Allow safe spaces to remain open for the students who need to hide away to recover. Finally, think of the students who have just begun their recovery process, but have not yet crossed the thoughts of self-harm and suicide from their mind.