New St Andrews head says mollycoddling of students must end

Professor Sally Mapstone has criticised universities for using the 'trigger warning' method.' Picture: John Cairns.
Professor Sally Mapstone has criticised universities for using the 'trigger warning' method.' Picture: John Cairns.
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THE new principal at St Andrews University has criticised higher education authorities for mollycoddling undergrads with politically correct ‘trigger warnings’.

Professor Sally Mapstone spoke out on the matter during her first official address since taking the job as principal at St Andrews.

Many undergraduates are bombarded with the so-called ‘trigger warnings’ in advance of receiving course material or associated media liable to shock or cause offence.

A large number of UK universities have adopted the trigger warning culture over the past year, inspired by similar methods popular with colleges throughout the United States.

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Topics which are considered ‘high risk’ include religion, modern social issues, history, medical and forensic science, politics and law.

Under the trigger warning system, archaeology students in Glasgow were pre-warned that the course work would include potentially-upsetting images of the dead, while undergrads in Edinburgh studying ‘gender and sexuality in global politics’ were told in advance that rape, sexual violence and violence against women would be part of the discussion. Upon receipt of the trigger warning, students are also free to leave their lecture rooms at any time if they find any of the subject matter distressing.

Many academics up and down the country are concerned that the method is stifling intellectual debate.

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Professor Mapstone said: “Understanding the past helps us engage with the irresistible contrariety of the present.

“And the past as we explore it with our students should not be bowdlerised or labelled in anticipation of what might offend them - though I should acknowledge that Thomas Bowdler, who gave his name to the verb I have just utilised, read medicine at St Andrews in the 1770s.”

She continued: “Inclusivity is not, in my view, enhanced through trigger warnings.”