American U Faculty Senate Criticizes Trigger Warnings

September 21, 2015

The Faculty Senate at American University has passed a resolution affirming the importance of academic freedom and questioning the use of "trigger warnings" that alert students to books or other materials that may be offensive or upsetting to them. The resolution was not prompted by an incident at AU, but concerns -- especially among librarians -- that they might be asked in the future to provide such warnings.

"As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that American University will not compromise," the resolution says. "Faculty may advise students before exposing them to controversial readings and other materials that are part of their curricula. However, the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering 'trigger warnings' or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to 'opt out' of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries."

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