Earlier this month a student at Crafton Hills College, a community college in the Los Angeles area, and her parents urged the institution to ban several graphic novels. They complained about four works: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; YY: The Last Man, Vol. 1, by Brian Vaughan; The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, by Neil Gaiman; and Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. In response, the community college’s president, Cheryl A. Marshall, said in an email that it was trying to “avoid this situation in the future” and that the English professor, Ryan Bartlett, had agreed to add a disclaimer or “trigger warning” to his syllabus.
Today the National Coalition Against Censorship sent President Marshall a letter that “strongly urge[s] the college not to set a dangerous precedent by adopting a general warning or disclaimer for this or any other course, but to leave the question of students’ sensitivities and preferences to be addressed on a case by case basis in discussions between individual students and faculty. This approach would defer to the professional judgment of the faculty with regard to the selection of educational materials, recognize the collective interest of the entire community in academic freedom, and respect the agency of adult students who are, after all, getting an education to help prepare for life in a world that doesn’t come with warnings.”
The letter points out that the AAUP “has considered the issue of trigger warnings at some length and concluded that they are inimical to the academic setting.” The letter continues: “Trigger warnings threaten not just academic freedom, but also the quality of education students receive.” The letter is signed by representatives of the Coalition and of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, PEN American Center, and the Association of American Publishers.
The full text of the letter may be downloaded here: