- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2016

The president of Evergreen State College is slamming the University of Chicago’s fight against political correctness, arguing that trigger warnings and safe spaces on campus are “critical” to students’ academic and personal success.

George S. Bridges, who has led the Olympia, Washington, college since October of last year, wrote in an op-ed for The Seattle Times that the University of Chicago’s recent letter to incoming freshmen blasting safe spaces and trigger warnings revealed “a profound indifference to concerns that many students now bring to colleges and universities.”

“Either the university is completely tone deaf to the academic and developmental needs of many students or is launching its own counterattack on what it perceives as an unwarranted assault of political correctness on campus. Or both,” Mr. Bridges wrote in his op-ed, first highlighted by Campus Reform.

Mr. Bridges argued that colleges and universities must adapt to the times as the society changes. He said trigger warnings can be valuable in alerting students “to genuinely distressing content that could otherwise cripple their learning.”

“A simple warning about troubling content acknowledges students’ unique personal circumstances, enables students to prepare and adapt if necessary and fosters a classroom climate focused on the student as a learner with unique capacities and assets,” he wrote.

Mr. Bridges said that 90 percent of the students at his college belong to at least one group traditionally underserved by higher education, including veterans, people of color and low-income students.

“Providing safe spaces for these students — that is, places and contexts in which they can reflect on and address these unfamiliar issues without fear of failure or rejection by others — proves critical to their success,” he wrote. “As colleges and universities seek to increase rates of student retention and graduation, we must (and we are) creating these spaces.

“In doing so, are we succumbing to the pressures of political correctness on campus? No. We are responding to the unique needs of many of our students solely for the purpose of increasing their academic and personal success.”

Mr. Bridges’ message came just days after the University of Chicago made headlines for a letter to its 2020 class explaining the private college’s “commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.”

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” wrote Jay Ellison, the dean of students for undergraduates at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Bridges found the letter ironic.

“Ironically, the University of Chicago’s welcoming message is, in itself, a trigger warning to students — the campus offers no safe spaces or warnings about potentially offensive or harmful content in its curricula or programs,” he wrote.

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