Want to talk about trigger warnings?

Allow me to suggest that minority students speaking out against oppression aren’t the biggest threat to healthy discourse on college campuses today.

To wit, here is a slide from a “recent campus carry dialogue at UH, in response to faculty concerns about dangers from armed students.” So much is wrong with this slide:

Texas recently passed a law allowing college students at public universities to possess firearms in dorms and classrooms starting August 1st. The law also limits public universities’ abilities to establish gun-free zones elsewhere on their campuses. Private colleges and universities are still allowed to ban guns; Rice and Baylor have done so.

Gun via Shutterstock

Gun, via Shutterstock

As one might imagine, the kind of student who feels the need to bring a gun to class probably has some pretty strong political opinions about, say, the right to bring a gun to class. This being the case, Texas has essentially guaranteed that some of the strongest (and most conservative) political opinions on its college campuses will be backed with the subtle threat of lethal weapons.

Predictably, this has led faculty on these campuses to alter their curricula. According to a resolution passed by the University of Houston faculty senate last year in opposition to the law, “The diverse academic communities and free academic discourse are especially threatened by the presence of deadly weapons in teaching, research and living spaces.”

So, just to be clear, while conservative scolds are wailing about how oppressive students are being when they organize against, say, a college president who shrugs their shoulders at an overtly racist campus culture, those same conservatives are imposing their own threats to free speech from the top down. They try to criminalize politically inconvenient research. They hunt down professors whose findings could cost their donors money. And now they’ve added the specter of lethal force to any spirited debate that happens to take place in the classroom.

As David Perry wrote:

Thesis: The idea that your students have guns will have a vastly more chilling effect on academic freedom than people asking for trigger warnings, less offensive language, or to be thoughtful about microaggressions.

Usually a trigger warning is simply a heads-up that a sensitive subject is about to be discussed. What’s going on here is that professors are being discouraged from discussing sensitive subjects entirely because someone might actually pull a trigger.

So tell me again: Who represents the real threat to free speech on campus?

Update: Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a similar “Campus Carry” law yesterday:

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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11 Responses to “Want to talk about trigger warnings?”

  1. 2karmanot says:


  2. 2karmanot says:


  3. 2karmanot says:

    It’s absolutely insane.

  4. Paladin SF says:

    Well, are you scared to walk around the Black part of town? I just ask because CCW permit holders are the least likely group to commit crime and those that are criminals ALREADY have their guns.

  5. Paladin SF says:

    Well, it depends. Most California has virtually no CCW in the metro areas yet it has a higher gun murder rate than Texas. Then we should consider that CCW permit holders are incredibly unlikely to commit crime.

    In fact, Utah has allowed campus carry for some time and nothing bad has happened yet.

  6. lageorgia says:

    I am so glad I am way past my education years as are my children. This is absolutely crazy. I already am restricted from all of our area parks due to guns being allowed in and I am too scared to walk my dogs in any of them now.

  7. Baal says:

    Yep. I teach at UH. I am not very happy about any of this. I can certainly imagine a religious whacko who might find the fact that evolution is the base assumption in all of life sciences getting upset by that reality and I’m never relenting on that in the classroom.

  8. Houndentenor says:

    Yes, it’s a problem. I’m not altering any lesson plans, but has made us all a little uneasy. I’d like to note that the state legislature doesn’t allow just anyone to bring a loaded weapon into their workplace, but they DO allow anyone to bring one into mine.

  9. emjayay says:

    I lived in dorms for three years at two universities. I’m sure that having guns and carrying them around would not remotely have been a problem. Every single resident spent all their time studying, and no one ever got drunk or anything. Everyone was also totally mentally balanced.

  10. nicho says:

    I am so glad that I did my teaching when all we had to worry about was students whining and pouting if they didn’t get the grade they thought they deserved. I wouldn’t set foot in a college classroom as a teacher today for any amount of money.

  11. UncleBucky says:


    That’s all I have to say.

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