Should we create trigger warnings for trigger warnings?

Jill Marie McSweeney, IDPhD (Candidate)
Educational Developer (Graduate Students)

The University of Chicago’s incoming 2020 class received a much debated welcome letter from their Dean of Students. The letter was meant to prepare incoming students with their policy to promote freedom of expression and academic discourse, and that they would not be supporting a “trigger warnings” policy. Trigger warnings – a technique used in teaching to alert students to sensitive, uncomfortable and potentially traumatic material – are designed to create safe spaces for learning, and protect students from topics and speakers that may have a negative impact on them.

Since the dissemination of the letter on August 24th, 2016, University of Chicago has received both an outstanding amount of support and backlash to this stance. Some believe that the point of higher education is to challenge our perspective and understandings of the world, and that this discomfort is a critical and significant part of learning. Others believe this goes against the creation of a campus that supports civility and respect, and may spark disruptions in the learning process rather than fostering a safe space for uncomfortable learning. This session will discuss the use of trigger warnings, the importance of academic freedom in teaching, and discomfort as a part of learning. Participants are encouraged to share their own experiences with trigger warnings (both as a student and a teacher).

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Killam Library, Room B400


A video conference room will be available. Truro attendees will be notified prior to the event.




Michelle Soucy
Communications and Event Planning Officer
Centre for Learning and Teaching
Dalhousie University
Killam Library, Suite G90
Tel: (902) 494-6641
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