The following comes from the July 2 edition of the San Bernardino Press-Enterprise:
San Bernardino Community College District Chancellor Bruce Baron has said the district will not require instructors to place disclaimers on their course descriptions in the wake of a protest by a student last month.
Initially, Crafton Hills College President Cheryl Marshall said professor Ryan Bartlett, whose course in fiction included graphic novels that upset one of his students, would include a disclaimer about the material in his course syllabus in the future.
Baron said that likely will not happen.
“We have determined we are not going to a disclaimer,” Baron said. “At first, President Marshall thought that would be the right thing to do.”
That decision was changed after subsequent conversations with faculty and educator groups, Baron said.
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), which includes the AAUP, sent a letter late last month to President Marshall urging her “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.” The letter pointed 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 continued: “Trigger warnings threaten not just academic freedom, but also the quality of education students receive.”
In an editorial applauding the district’s decision, the Press-Enterprise cited the NCAC letter:
As the coalition discussed in its letter, and as has been seen across the country, trigger warnings can have a chilling effect on the sorts of material presented in college courses, as well as contributing to a climate in which hypersensitivity suppresses the sort of discourse colleges are supposed to foster.
We applaud the decision to push back against disclaimers for this reason.
“Unfortunately,” the editorial continued, “there is much more work to do to convince activist college students, who all too often push for warnings on expressions of political ideas they simply don’t approve of.” Citing objections lodged by the student government at the University of California, Riverside, which called on the university to “warn” students about the alleged dangers posed by an anti-abortion demonstration, the editorial concluded that
the notion that adult students need to be warned away from ideas conflicting with their own goes against the spirit of higher education.
Whatever one thinks of graphic novels – also called comic books – with violent or sexual content, or the abortion debate itself, colleges ought to be places where ideas and concepts are freely exchanged.
Whether this exchange takes the form of class content or political demonstrations, colleges should resist efforts to curtail this noble purpose.