The Prevailing Narrative On Trigger Warnings Is Just Plain Wrong

Despite the media scare stories, trigger warnings are not widely used by college professors across the country, according to a survey released in full on Tuesday. They’re not even widely demanded by students. And when they are used, the warnings address both liberal and conservative concerns.

The nonscientific survey, conducted by the National Coalition Against Censorship, is the first of its kind to gather data on the actual use of trigger warnings in college classes. The conclusion: While professors are fretting about the possibility, there is “no crisis.”

Trigger warnings advise readers that the content ahead addresses sensitive subjects, such as child abuse, rape and racist violence, that may evoke personal trauma. The warnings, which became popular on blogs over the past decade, are typically placed at the beginning of reading material or stated verbally. A debate has emerged in recent years about their use in the university setting.

The Atlantic has written repeatedly about the “spread” of demands for trigger warnings. Jill Filipovic at The Guardian has said “we’ve gone too far” with trigger warnings, essentially echoing Peggy Noonan’s critiques in The Wall Street Journal. Even WikiLeaks has attacked them. The American Association of University Professors last year issued a statement condemning trigger warnings as a “threat to academic freedom.”

Yet, as the NCAC survey shows, the fears stoked by some in the media have gone well beyond the on-campus reality.

The Huffington Post first reported the statistics from the survey in June, showing that virtually no college required the use of trigger warnings. The full release of the results on Tuesday included testimony from some of the 800-plus current teaching professors who were surveyed. The project —> Read More