Many Instructors Embrace Trigger Warnings, Despite Their Peers’ Misgivings

June 16, 2015 / Phil Lesch

The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 16th, 2015

Despite widespread fears that trigger warnings hurt classroom discussion and threaten academic freedom, many college instructors appear be adopting them on their own, without prodding from administrators or students, a new survey’s findings suggest.

The online survey, of members of the College Art Association and the Modern Language Association, found that more than half of respondents had at least once voluntarily provided students with such warnings, which involve advance notice that instructional material might elicit a troubling emotional response.

Nearly a fourth of respondents said they had voluntarily offered the warnings "several times" or "regularly," according to survey results presented here last week at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors.

The share of survey respondents who reported using trigger warnings dwarfed the less than 1 percent who said their institutions had a trigger-warning policy. It also stood much larger than the share of respondents reporting that students at their college had sought such an institutional trigger-warning policy, had requested that they provide a warning in a course, or had complained to them or to an administrator about their failure to issue such a warning.

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