BY RILEY FANNING
In this new age of obsessive social justice and consistent tiptoeing around controversial topics, anything that could be potentially offensive to just about anyone is under fire. Where this is most obvious, though, is on the breeding ground of overt political correctness—college campuses. There is a new order of students in universities across America, demanding “trigger warnings” and safe spaces.
A trigger warning is a statement made before a piece of media alerting the audience that it could contain sensitive material. Safe spaces are a notion usually attached to trigger warnings, which refer to a place on campus where students can come together to discuss their experiences and ideas without censure or opposition.
On college campuses, there has been a strong push for trigger warnings to be used by professors in the classroom. Recently, American University’s Student Government Association has started an initiative campaigning for mandatory trigger warnings, and many other campuses have followed suit.
The topic of trigger warnings was especially ignited earlier this year when the University of Chicago sent out a letter to the incoming freshman class informing them that the school was not in support of trigger warnings or safe spaces because they allowed for students to “retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
Last year, Brown University made headlines when their use of a safe space was immensely criticized. A debate was scheduled where one of the speakers would denounce the term “rape culture.” Many students were enraged and, with the help of the university, created a safe space room filled with cookies, blankets, bubbles and play dough for those who were triggered by the discussion.
The basic idea behind trigger warnings is not completely atrocious, but the implication they impose on campuses proves to be harmful. The limitation of what can and cannot be discussed due to personal experiences leads to an under-informed generation of coddled young adults. Some topics and conversations are uncomfortable, but stifling the possibility of discussion is much worse.
College is not the same as the real world off of campus perimeters, and trigger warnings do not conveniently pop up before something distressing happens in one’s life. Being open and willing to discuss ideas with people who do not have the same beliefs or life experience is a crucial skill to develop.
Many campuses have cancelled visits from various speakers because of student uproar over the possibly triggering person or topic. When controversial speakers such as libertarian speaker Milo Yiannopoulos have made appearances on campus, they have been yelled over and disrespected.
Instead of universities supporting immature behavior of students screaming over and silencing views opposite to their own, there should be a call for intelligent and mature debate through curating a well-executed argument defending their viewpoint.
The concept that people and ideas that could be controversial or triggering to some should be labeled or banned is a knock against freedom of expression and speech, and ultimately limits us all. While we may not agree with people or everything they have to say, we should always fiercely advocate for their right to say it.