uchicago

Harper Library | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

University of Chicago students, be warned: your feelings do not override the free disbursement of knowledge at the University of Chicago. Or at least, that’s what one administrator announced last week.

In a letter addressed to the incoming Class of 2020, Dean of Students John Ellison informed new students that the institution does not promote “trigger warnings,” will not cancel select speakers on the basis of popular opinion and, in general, “safe spaces” will not be used to protect students from ideas at odds with their own.

Ellison’s letter joins a frenzy of heated rhetoric on both sides of the safe space debate, as critics lambast the concept as suppression of free speech at worst and “coddling” at best. Advocates note the importance of ensuring a welcome, comfortable space for students.

Those feelings are shared by others in the student community. Penn LPS student Mariam Aisset did not hold back in her support of the policy. “Safe spaces, inherently, are pointless. The thought that academic freedom needs to be handcuffed in the name of someone’s feelings is detrimental to the college experience as a whole.”

Cody Kanz, a philosophy major at Columbia University, echoed some of those thoughts, although he was much more reserved in his criticism.

“I am really trying to understand them, but ultimately I think they are an affront to speech, and more so to intellectual, emotional, and relational maturity,” he said.

Vivian Williams, a new enrollee at the University of Chicago Law School, found herself in sharp contrast to the policy.

“I think it’s intellectually lazy and willfully ignorant to not take the time to listen to actual people’s experiences with trauma triggers in a higher education classroom,” she said.

While the policy has caused sharp opinions on both sides, the University does not seem willing to back down from its stance. The willingness, or lack thereof, of students at the University to make their voices heard remains to be seen.

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