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

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A Pedestrian walks through the Main Quadrangles (Quad) on the Hyde Park Campus of the University of Chicago on November 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Scott Olson/Getty Images

The University of Chicago has warned incoming students not to expect “trigger warnings” when they arrive on campus.

In a letter sent to incoming freshmen, Jay Ellison, the school’s dean of students, touted the university’s commitment to “freedom of inquiry and expression” and asked students to prepare to engage with a variety of ideas that are “at odds with their own.”

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” Ellison said in the letter, which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed. “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.”

Student activists at schools across the country have recently advocated for the use of trigger warnings, which provide advance notice of content that could be upsetting to students—such as discussions of sexual violence, for example. While some schools have started using trigger warnings in classrooms, the practice has become controversial, as opponents argue that such warnings and “safe spaces” contradict academic traditions of freedom of expression and a diversity of ideas.