Trigger Warning

The gist:

… 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.

… In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding
students from controversial material will deter them from becoming
critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to
process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important
responsibilities of higher education.

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY FACULTY SENATE RESOLUTION ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

9/9/15 Unanimously Approved

For hundreds of years, the pursuit of knowledge has been at the
center of university life. Unfettered discourse, no matter how
controversial, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, is a condition
necessary to that pursuit. American University stands in this tradition,
as stated in section 4 of the Faculty Manual.
(http://www.american.edu/provost/academicaffairs/faculty-manualtoc.cfm)

Freedom of speech–protected by the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution– undergirds the cherished principle of academic
freedom. As limits, either subtle or explicit, are increasingly placed on
intellectual freedom in venues of public discourse, the academy is
committed to the full expression of ideas.

American University is committed to protecting and championing the
right to freely communicate ideas—without censorship—and to
study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that
some members of our community may find disturbing or that
provokes uncomfortable feelings. This freedom is an integral part of
the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot
shrink.

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.
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.
Faculty should direct students who experience personal difficulties
from exposure to controversial issues to resources available at
American University’s support-services offices.

In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding
students from controversial material will deter them from becoming
critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to
process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important
responsibilities of higher education.

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