Credit: DaveBleasdale

Glasgow University criticised for “political correctness”

Credit: DaveBleasdale

Jess Owen

University of Glasgow theology students were presented with trigger warnings before a class.

The warnings were given to students attending a lecture for the level one class Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible before images were displayed of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Students were cautioned that the lecture would contain “graphic scenes of crucifixion.”

Critics, including the Daily Mail, have argued that the University has taken trigger warnings too far, and the warnings were an effort to remain politically correct.

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow responded: “We have an absolute duty of care to all of our students and where it is felt that course material may cause potential upset or concern then warnings may be given in advance.

“It was disappointing that the Daily Mail recently chose to sensationalise what we believe to be a very sensible policy.  Broadcasters for example give advance notice of certain content, even to the point of warning of ‘flash photography’. The university will always put student welfare first and it is absolutely right that we provide this context.”

Similar warnings have been displayed in other classes including Veterinary Science, Issues in Contemporary Society and classes at the University’s Dumfries campus, in which students were forewarned that they would be discussing illness and violence.

Liz Smith, a member of the Scottish Parliament and Shadow Education Secretary, called the warnings “ridiculous”, and claimed that the university is limiting its students development by forcing everything to pass the “politically correct test.”

Trigger warnings are intended to protect the mental health of students in order to prevent any distressing reaction to the content. Students are free to look away or leave the class if they feel uncomfortable.

Regarding the prevention of post traumatic stress, trigger warnings are put in place to protect students who may have experienced past traumas from re-experiencing them in a lecture hall.

Dr Naomi Wolf, feminist and recent university lecturer in Victorian sexualities, told the Sunday Times: “Trauma from sexual or other assault and abuse is very real, and ‘triggers’ are real for victims of abuse. But the place to process or deal with survivor triggers is with a trained therapist in a counsellor’s office, and not in a classroom or university context.”

The University’s mental health policy states that the University believes no student should be disadvantaged from succeeding in their studies due to mental health difficulties or conditions, and they are committed to providing flexibility in order to facilitate students’ success in a “stigma-free” environment.

A spokesperson for Glasgow University’s Theology and Religious Society stated: “When dealing with visual depictions of the crucifixion in particular, there is a lot of gore involved. Many, many people have an issue with the sight of blood. Pre-warning will stop students passing out or feeling unwell.

“It is impossible to know who is in a class and what they may have suffered. Trigger warnings allow students to make informed choices about the material they are going to be exposed to. The Bible is full of rape, gang rape and brutal murders. Being forewarned of a subject matter that might induce a sense of panic or distress in someone is a matter of common courtesy.

“If the 6 o’clock news feels the need to forewarn viewers that some scenes might be distressing, it seems only right that students are afforded the same common courtesy when also dealing with distressing material.”


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