Campus Free Speech

Finally: University of Chicago Warns Freshmen Not to Expect Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings

Let's give Dean of Students John Ellison a round of applause.

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U of Chicago
Public Domain

Many universities are caving to fragile students' demands for emotional protection from offensive speech. The University of Chicago isn't one of them.

In a welcome letter to the incoming Class of 2020, Dean of Students John Ellison gives students the truth: there will be no quarter from controversial ideas on campus. U of C has made an ironclad commitment to the First Amendment, and will not abide safe spaces, trigger warnings, and other kinds of limitations on what is considered acceptable discourse:

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

Ellison pulls no punches. "Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship," he writes. "At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."

A university administrator forewarning students that they might actually be uncomfortable is so unheard of these days that I worried Ellison's letter was actually a fake—even though The Chicago Maroon retweeted it. So I emailed Ellison's office to confirm it.

"I can confirm that the letter is authentic," a U of C spokesperson told Reason.

Bravo, Chicago. Bravo.

Read the full letter here.

NEXT: Brickbat: Special Delivery

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  1. Ellison pulls no punches. “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship,” he writes. “At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

    Let’s see how many sit-ins. screaming snowflakes and social media attacks they can endure before the uni crumbles to the foot stompers.

    1. “Effective immediately, you have all been de-matriculated. After we take your student IDs you will have to leave the campus or you will be arrested for tresspassing.”

      1. There is an apocryphal story that something like this happened at Notre Dame in the 1960s. Students blocked the administration building; the President came out and said something to the effect “Anyone still here in 15 minutes is expelled.” Cleared right out.

      2. This letter is of course an outrage, signaling a policy that leaves students and professors alike unprotected from speech that can make them feel unsafe and, even worse, seriously damage the reputations of distinguished members of the academic community. Would the University of Chicago president tolerate inappropriately deadpan “Gmail confession parodies” sent around campus in his name? See the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        1. P.s. the full extent of the criminal conduct allowed by this policy can be seen by the fact that the major decision of the New York Court of Appeals in the above-linked case makes no distinction whatsoever between “truthful” and “malicious” harm to reputation, and thus signals an excellent clarification of our laws. Instead of clamping down on speech that damages reputations, however truthfully, the University’s president appears to be endorsing the outrageous “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge, who has since fortunately been obliged to step down from his position as “chief judge” of the New York Court of Appeals on account of his advanced age.

    2. This whole thing is Mccarthyism revisited. Eventually someone is going to stand up to the snowflakes and they will disintegrate as a group. The emperor has no clothes and these asshats have no actual power and pose no actual threat. They have been made powerful by the institutions that are terrified of them but at some point either slowly or as the result of an over the top incident people will wake up and strip them of their fake hysterical shrieking power. Can’t come soon enough. Maybe this is step 1.

      1. The SJWs really are no different from a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. How long before they literally start shitting their pants in protest?

        1. I actually think I saw a performance art piece to that effect. Can’t remember if it was shitting or mentraution though. And it involved a can of spaghetti-o’s I think. Just search ‘interior semiotics’ on YouTube.

          1. I’d rather report to crusty’s basement, thanks.

    3. Having attended the U of C, I’m fairly certain the admin and the majority of students won’t stand for it. There is not much tolerance for the precious snowflakes on campus and I never worried about holding my tongue for fear of offending someone. I’m sure that tradition will stay strong.

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  2. They can’t provide safe spaces – they have to worry about the stray bullets from the rest of Chicago.

    1. given the current murder rate in Chicago, this guy’s life expectancy just went to about 10 milliseconds

    2. don’t worry, trump knows a guy who can solve the crime problem in a week. he doesn’t remember his name and didn’t get any details, but you can consider it done!

  3. We will see how long John Ellison lasts.

    If the useful idiots cant get him to resign by accusing him of racism or rape someone in the Obumbles crowd will file some kind of Title IX complaint.

    1. That’ll most likely depend on whether or not the University of Chicago is a private institution, with no government funding. If it’s regarded as a public institution, I can see the protests and petitions mounting for the lawmakers to force the safe-space/trigger-warning policies upon the school. If it’s fully private, though, the school can employ the FYTW shield at will.

      1. No such thing, since almost all “private” colleges still accept federal student aid. Fed.gov has dug itself so deep into the funding of “higher ed” that there’s no escape.

        1. Hillsdale College does not accept Federal funding. Unfortunately they have transformed from a quasi-libertarian institution to one that is rabidly pro-war neocon. At least if their newsletter is any indication. Used to be the newsletter would talk about Mises and Hayek, now it talks about how your daughters will be raped by Muslims because we are too afraid bomb Pakistani weddings.

  4. Finally a sensible, realistic institution dedicated to learning takes a proactive measure for academic freedom!

  5. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others.

    Loophole found.

    1. Really, all of the language policing has just been defining threats and harassment down to the point that they include differing opinions.

      1. Given the rest of the letter, I interpreted this as being directed at the terminally offended and their harassment of others

        1. You may be too beautiful for this world.

      2. Yes and no. It all depends on the political views of the people involved. If the offended person is a progressive then a crime tantamount to murder has occurred. If the offended person is not a progressive, then by being offended they are demonstrating intolerance, which is also tantamount to murder.

        1. assemble the douche canoes…we row to Chicago!!!

          1. This single sentence contains a multitude of excellent band names. I applaud you.

        2. Either way not being a goodthinking Progressive = murder.

    2. No one is going to get very far nowadays with pro-harassment agenda, at least not in academia.

  6. Trigger warning: don’t walk off campus

    1. Less trigger warnings, more trigger discipline

    2. That’s a literal trigger warning. Walk off campus and triggers might be pulled in your direction.

  7. Isn’t his letter a kind of trigger warning?

    1. No, it’s an attempt at pandering. He saw the financial pain brought to Mizzou after their debacle, and wanted to reassure the billpayers (parents) that his money pit was not, in fact, a giant waste of funds.

      1. “Debacle” meaning something totally excellent. Bad for Mizzou, awesome for me.

      2. lol @ the idea of UC being worried about the same things as Mizzou

    2. Not all warnings are ‘trigger warnings.’

      The University of Missouri has plenty of empty dorm rooms for those who are nervous about their choice after receiving this letter.

  8. Ok Reason, on mobile the ads take up more space than the article. Might be time to review that.

    1. They did. Next week, ads will be 30% larger.

      1. I look forward to finally finding out which celebrities are actually ghosts and/or transpecie.

        1. You should’ve donated during the webathon.

        2. #5 will shock you….the rest are pretty obvious

          1. this one weird ingredient will…

            1. I read that one, the weird ingredient is semen, go figure.

        3. I am just curious why so many of those ads seem to be morbidly fascinated by minor celebrity deaths.

          1. And Walmart cameras

    2. Adblock plus extension of using a PC or android phone, Adblock browser if using an iPhone or iPad. It works wonders.

      1. As for myself, I had to install Adblock, pay for a subscription, and personally pick Matt Welch up form the airport to get rid of the adds.

  9. Similarly, many universities are creating “safe spaces” where students can relax free from ideas that might be stressful or anxiety-inducing. Among these is Brown University, which last year created a room “with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies” because a debate on sexual assault was taking place on campus.

    If my eyes roll any more I’ll rupture my optic nerves

    1. Better demand that H&R provide trigger warnings before mentioning “safe spaces”.

    2. Consider maybe that this was an ironic gesture. Maybe some administrator agrees that this is bullshit and filled with children’s amusements to send the proper message that those who want to partake of that safe space are acting like children.

      Suppose that you had that job and were certain that there would be ramifications for your career if you didn’t kowtow to the screaming exposed-nerves SJW snowflakes. If you had to do so, wouldn’t this be exactly as you’d make it?

      1. I would hope so, but I’m not sure if an administrator was responsible for setting up the “safe space” or if they just set aside a room and it was the snowflakes themselves who actually set the room up like a 3 year old’s play room. Unfortunately, I think it was the latter.

      2. And how would you feel when they ignored the intended slight and were delighted with the cookies and crayons?

        1. I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere near the place. I’m pretty good at controlling my laughter in most cases, but I think I’d lose it at the sight of grown adults playing with children’s toys because other people having the freedom to talk about things shatters their fragile egos.

    3. But were the puppies pure breeds or were mixed race dogs as well as digs from all different breeds represented? Also, why weren’t any female dogs shown breastfeeding? I find this safe space very problematic.

      1. It wasn’t puppies, it was videos of puppies. Apparently real puppies are too scary for safe spaces.

        I suppose they might poop or nip SJW fingers. We Can’t Have That!

    4. What’s needed are artificial wombs they all can retreat into. (I’ll leave the abortion jokes to someone else.)

  10. Isn’t anyone going to defend safe spaces? I thought the internet was supposed to be full of trolls?

    1. hiding under those bridges to nowhere!

    2. white knights defend. trolls provoke. c’mon, man…

  11. A university administrator forewarning students that they might actually be uncomfortable is so unheard of these days that I worried Ellison’s letter was actually a fake

    Yep. The first time I heard about “safe spaces” I thought it was a joke.

    1. Oops! Sorry, ifh!

      1. why do you hate invisible furry hands, you bigot?

        1. *** trudges off to yet another sensitivity training session ***

  12. “there will be no quarter from controversial ideas on campus”

    WTF does this mean?

    Does it intend to mean that there will be no quarters where controversial ideas are prohibited?

    Or does it mean that controversial ideas are to be killed without mercy at UoC?

    1. It means the controversial ideas will give no quarter, ie they will kill the students or die trying. Or something.

    2. As I recall from my days at the UofC, it means that controversial ideas will kill *you* without mercy. Dangerous god damn place – the academic equivalent of Australia. But that was why we liked it.

    3. Back when I was young, you could get a controversial idea for a nickel.

    4. “Walking side by side with death, The devil mocks their every step
      The snow drives back the foot that’s slow, The dogs of doom are howling more…”

  13. Refreshing

  14. Hopefully this is the first of many. Universities need to start to pushing back on the fragile snowflakes.

  15. U of C has made an ironclad commitment to the First Amendment

    If only they would make such commitments to all the Amendments.

  16. I am actually a pretty proud alumnus right now.

    1. I am too!

    2. I would be but they wait listed me 🙁

    3. Absolutely. I only wish the article had acknowledged the UC’s broader role in modelling behaviour against the total collapse of speech on college campuses. The University of Chicago statement on the principles of free speech on campus, to promote uninhibited inquiry, has beebn picked up by several other universities recently:

      http://www.economist.com/news/…..m-hard-say

      I actually first became aware of the Libertarian Party while visiting the U of C as a prospective student in 1988, where I saw Ron Paul (their presidential candidate) speak to a campus group.

  17. Dean of Students must be gagged
    And we’ll chain him to a chair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago for grieving
    In a land that’s known as tolerant we can’t let free speech be fair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago for the safetly we can bring

    We can change the world rearrange the world
    It’s dying – to get safer

    Non-progressives sit yourselves down, there’s nothing for you here
    Won’t you please come to Chicago bring your Pride
    Don’t ask Jill to help you `cause you’ll trigger xe with fear
    Won’t you please come to Chicago and join the one Right side

    We can change the world rearrange the world
    It’s dying – if you want social justice
    Dying – and if you detest freedom
    Dying – let no man live his own life
    Dying – rules and regulations, we need them… close up all the doors

    Clearly no one must be free I hope the day comes soon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago show your face
    All the SJWs of Twitter and every single Facebook loon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago no one should make you feel unsafe

    We can change the world rearrange the world
    It’s dying – if you want social justice
    Dying – and if you detest freedom
    Dying – let no man live his own life
    Dying – rules and regulations, we need them… close up all the doors

  18. I’m still waiting for all you folks banging the “First Amendment” drum to realize that all “safe spaces” are is people exercising their Freedom of Association.

    1. As are all the comments on here, Captain Obvious. No one is calling for a ban of safe spaces by the government.

      1. If I’m “Captain Obvious” for pointing out the hypocrisy here, what does that make you?

        1. There is no hypocrisy. You, being retarded, are just incapable of understanding the difference between criticizing a behavior and demanding that it be banished on threat of punishment. Unfortunately yours is a common mental illness among those of your political stripes.

        2. “If I’m “Captain Obvious” for pointing out the hypocrisy here”

          Since you’re not, it makes you “Captain Imbecile”.

    2. Yeah, if only they’d extend that courtesy to people who they disagree with.

    3. all “safe spaces” are is people exercising their Freedom of Association

      The existence of “safe spaces” is not the problem. The implication that every space should be a “safe space” is.

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  20. Let the rioting, burnings, and lynchings commence!

  21. Safe Spaces are to be found, maybe, under their beds, at home, where they should perhaps stay.

  22. “In a welcome letter to the incoming Class of 2020,”

    I’ll say it’s welcome!

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  29. Obama must be pleasantly surprised at the massive support he is getting from the academics in the destruction of America. Tell these students and those at Commoner Low (nee Princeton U) they are free to attempt to emigrate to Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea et al, if they choose. Freedom, seize it!

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  31. That’ll most likely depend on whether or not the University of Chicago is a private institution, with no government funding. If it’s regarded as a public institution. obat abses
    I can see the protests and petitions mounting for the lawmakers to force the safe-space/trigger-warning policies upon the school. If it’s fully private, though, the school can employ the FYTW shield at will.
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