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Latest critics of trigger warnings and microaggression: University professors

Students sit on the stairs in a crowded lecture hall.
Students sit on the stairs in a crowded lecture hall.
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

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A new sensitivity on college campuses, epitomized by concepts like microaggression and trigger warnings, is causing some professors to cry foul.

A recent report released by the American Association of University Professors says that Title IX enforcement on college campuses insufficiently distinguishes between what constitutes sexual harassment and what constitutes academic speech. That gray area has caused many professors to claim that they’ve be unjustly disciplined.

As an example, the report cited students at several universities who objected to being assigned “Fun Home” – a memoir written by lesbian artist Alison Bechdel -- for class. The students characterized the text’s depiction of lesbian sex as “pornographic,” and called for trigger warnings to be included.

The report calls for the government to establish a clearer standard in evaluating the kind of speech that creates a hostile environment, versus speech used to talk about topics students might find controversial.

The History, Uses and Abuses of Title IX


Risa L. Lieberwitz, general counsel of the  American Association of University Professors and chairwoman of the subcommittee that drafted the report, titled “The History, Uses and Abuses of Title IX”. She is also a professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University

Brett Sokolow, president and CEO of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management and Executive Director of The Association of Title IX Administrators