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Warning Labels On College Courses?

Some college students are demanding professors put warning labels on courses and books that might offend. And many profs are offended by that.

This Feb. 5, 2014 file photo shows a statue of a man sleepwalking in his underpants, called "Sleepwalker," which was part of an exhibit by sculptor Tony Matelli, surrounded by snow on the campus of Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Mass. A student started an online petition to have it moved indoors because it had become “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.” (AP)

This Feb. 5, 2014 file photo shows a statue of a man sleepwalking in his underpants, called “Sleepwalker,” which was part of an exhibit by sculptor Tony Matelli, surrounded by snow on the campus of Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Mass. A student started an online petition to have it moved indoors because it had become “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.” (AP)

Should college student assigned “The Great Gatsby” be forewarned that it contains scenes of “gory, abusive, misogynistic violence”?  Should undergrads reading “Huckleberry Finn” get a boldprint warning label of racism – and permission to duck it?  A new push on college campuses is calling for “trigger warnings” up front on potentially disturbing readings and more.  Advocates say it’s to protect the vulnerable.  Critics say it’s hypersensitivity run amuck and a veiled attack on free speech, robust scholarship.  This hour On Point:  Trigger warnings, and what American college kids can handle.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jennifer Medina, Southern California / Nevada correspondent for the New York Times. (@jennymedina)

Raechel Tiffe, visiting assistant professor of gender and communication, public communication and mass communication at Merrimack College.

Laurie Essig, associate professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies, Middlebury College. (@LaurieEssig)

Charles Mitchell, executive vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives.

Justin Peligri, managing director of the GW Hatchet. (@JustinPeligri)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm — “Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as ‘trigger warnings,’ explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.”

Chronicle of Higher Education: Trigger Warnings Trigger Me — “Trigger warnings are a very dangerous form of censorship because they’re done in the name of civility. Learning is painful. It’s often ugly and traumatic. How different my life would be if I hadn’t read Crime and Punishment because it’s misogynist and violent. How terrible my teaching would be if I hadn’t spent years researching spectacle lynchings and eugenics and freak shows in order to teach courses on race and American culture.”

GW Hatchet: Why we need trigger warnings on syllabi — “Nobody is arguing that controversial topics should be omitted from discourse in college classrooms. Faculty are right to be concerned when they sense that their ability to speak candidly and fearlessly about heart-wrenching topics could be blockaded.”

William Bowen To Haverford College Graduates: “This Was No Victory For Anyone Who Believes In Mutual Respect”

William Bowen, President Emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University

Transcript Of Bowen’s Remarks

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