The Short Version: Trigger Warnings

The Short Version: Trigger Warnings

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story. In some of  the most recent iterations of The Short Version, Cleo Abram looked at the option of mandatory voting – given that jury duty is mandatory, why not voting? –  and whether or not college should be free at public schools. (Bernie did cast a long shadow.) She debated quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. And this week, Cleo looks at the pros and cons of “trigger warnings.”

Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.

“I love getting feedback every week—thank you! If you want come hang out, debate a thing or two, and meet other Shorties, check out Short Events,” says Cleo. “Or if you have a topic you’d be interested in guest writing, just let me know! Let’s make it happen.”

Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

Cleo Constantine Abram of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

What’s happening?

As the school year starts, universities are welcoming college freshman onto new campuses across the country. But at the University of Chicago, that welcome has become extremely controversial.

The University of Chicago sent a letter to freshman stating, “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.”

The letter made waves in the national debate about ‘political correctness’ and freedom of expression.

Trigger warnings are notes placed before content to warn readers of potentially unsettling material. Usually, trigger warnings are aimed at those who have survived significant trauma or have related mental health conditions. They aim to create intellectual safe spaces—as the University of Chicago noted—in which topics considered “triggering” are treated delicately (though this does not mean these topics are cannot be discussed.) Topics for trigger warnings usually include sexual assault, violence, suicide, and addiction. In some cases, trigger warnings have been expanded to include classism and racism, among many other topics.

Why is it important?

As trigger warnings have become more popular, they have been held up as an example of ‘political correctness’ interfering with intellectual freedom. The accusation defies traditional partisan politics; though often focused on liberal students‘ complaints, socially conservative students’ objections also made news—for example, in the Duke ‘Fun Home‘ controversy.

The trigger warning controversy asks the question, where is the line between creating a safe and productive learning environment and stifling the difficult and sometimes troubling process of learning itself?

Debate it!

Was the University of Chicago right to oppose trigger warnings?

 Why “The Short Version” on TIO:

Eight+ years ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this new weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance. (Though we won’t go political, or rather we won’t show bias in the upcoming election.)

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:


Cleo Abram 2


Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist at Precision Strategies, a political consulting firm born of the Obama 2012 presidential campaign.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.

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