A professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is making students sign a contract that asks them to immediately drop his class if they are easily “triggered.”
James “Duke” Pesta, an associate professor of English, developed the two-page contract over a year-and-a-half ago in response to a growing number of college students who become outraged over different opinions.
The contract’s Statement of Purpose, published in The College Fix Thursday, lays out the professor’s rules for attending his class.
“In this course, we study literature from cultures that existed before you were born. Their world is not our world. Their beliefs may not be our beliefs. No one asks you to believe or endorse any premise, attitude, precept, theology, political system, or ideology contained in these books or expressed in class. Nor will you ever lose points or be docked grades because of your opinion (written, oral, or otherwise),” the contract says.
The Statement of Purpose goes on to condemn any attempts to judge content under the false guise of “social justice.”
“We will not malign or trivialize these texts because they do not always parrot our values. We will not assume these books are racist, sexist, or homophobic because of the period in which they were written, or because of the race, class, gender, or religion of the authors,” the contract adds. “People who approach alien cultures with such preconceived notions are bigots masquerading as critically sophisticated advocates, often in the name of ‘social justice.’ Persons who so diminish the past are neither social nor just, especially when they compel students to adopt their biases.”
A list of rules also tells anyone easily-offended to “drop the class immediately” if they feel the need to censor different ideas and opinions.
Please drop the class immediately if you are triggered by free speech, the free exchange of ideas, or people who express and defend ideas or opinions that differ from your own.
Please drop the class immediately if you are triggered by open, direct, and adult discussion of issues, including but not limited to issues of faith, war, violence, race, gender, and sexuality.
Please drop the class immediately if you are triggered by recurring encounters with heterosexuality, traditional gender identities, sympathetic representations of Christianity (or religion in general), positive examples of free markets or capitalism, or unapologetic encounters with patriotism, hierarchies, or meritocracy-based institutions or attitudes.
Please drop the class immediately if you feel entitled to censor the thoughts or words of others or insist they tailor their language or attitudes to your preferences.
Speaking with The College Fix, Pesta, who also hosts the site’s Campus Roundup YouTube show, says the contract is necessary given that administrators are less and less willing to defend speech.
“I have learned through personal experience that university administrators and equity officers are often not willing to defend classroom speech, even if that speech is taken directly from books or used to explain them,” Pesta said.
Pesta, who refuses to use trigger warnings in his class – which he refers to as “appalling from an educational standpoint” – added that he has yet to encounter any student unwilling to sign the agreement.
“I do tell them, when I pass it out the first day, that if they refuse to sign they will have to meet with me sometime during the first week of classes to discuss the contract and make sure we’re on the same page,” Pesta said.