After University of Chicago Dean of Students John Jay Ellison sent a welcome letter to the class of 2020 in August -- telling incoming freshmen to dispense with visions of safe spaces and trigger warnings and basically be prepared to grow up amid a rigorously free-thinking campus -- upperclassmen pounced on the missive, saying it was a “poor introduction to the intellectual environment.”
In a welcome letter to freshmen, the College made clear that it does not condone safe spaces or trigger warnings: pic.twitter.com/9ep3n0ZbgV— The Chicago Maroon (@ChicagoMaroon) August 24, 2016
Now faculty members of the prestigious college are weighing in — and they're not what you'd call allies of the dean on this particular matter.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 160 of them signed another letter to the class of 2020 defending requests for safe spaces and trigger warnings:
Those of us who have signed this letter have a variety of opinions about requests for trigger warnings and safe spaces. We may also disagree as to whether free speech is ever legitimately interrupted by concrete pressures of the political. That is as it should be. But let there be no mistake: such requests often touch on substantive, ongoing issues of bias, intolerance, and trauma that affect our intellectual exchanges. To start a conversation by declaring that such requests are not worth making is an affront to the basic principles of liberal education and participatory democracy.
The faculty letter notes that the history of safe spaces "goes back to gay, civil rights, and feminist efforts of the mid–20th century to create places protected from quite real forces of violence and intimidation. They also served as incubators of new ideas away from the censure of the very authorities threatened by these movements. It would be naïve to think that the University of Chicago is immune from social problems."
The letter's final paragraph reads: "The right to speak up and to make demands is at the very heart of academic freedom and freedom of expression generally. We deplore any atmosphere of harassment and threat. For just that reason, we encourage the Class of 2020 to speak up loudly and fearlessly."
(H/T: The College Fix)