Oxford SU to lobby for trigger warnings

Written by Comment

After a vote at their Student Council, Oxford University Student Union are to lobby for reading lists which contain hate speech against any group to come with trigger warnings. Okay. There’s a lot to dissect there.

They are also arguing that students should not be forced to engage with any “hateful material”. This means they should not be required to attend any lectures, tutorials or seminars or sit any exams which involve “hate speech”. Okay, even more. That’s fine. We can do this in… 200 words.

Trigger warnings are, in my opinion, essential. As an English student, my course requires an engagement with material that is often extreme, and for certain people that can be incredibly hard. But to say that students should not have to study or be examined on any hateful material – essentially meaning it has to be excluded from the course – is absurdist. As a proud snowflake, even I have to admit that this is ridiculous.

Studying hateful material is not important: it is essential

Within history and politics, or any humanities subject, study of hateful material is essential. Not necessary, or important, but essential. To not study anything concerning hate speech is whitewashing. It looks away from things because they are hard, and involves ignoring stuff that we, the human race, have always done. Bad stuff. Stuff that we might not do again if we remember, study, and talk about it. The motion put forward by the Oxford SU degrades any subject, and renders it a parody of itself. It has the potential to raise a generation of academics who think we live in a meadow of wildflowers and fluffy unicorns. They might forget that that meadow has a Nazi genocide in the corner, or a black teenager lynched on a tree.

If we don’t engage with humanity’s flaws, we can’t try to fix them

The hardest part is accepting that, though the meadow might be flawed, it is still beautiful, and worthy of making better. If you don’t acknowledge the flaws, you can’t try to fix them, which is all the human race needs to do to keep on going. Removing hateful material makes this impossible.

I hate to be like Piers Morgan, calling things woke and absurd, but come on. Why do we have academics if not for difficult material?

Last modified: 17th May 2020

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