University Agrees to Eliminate Mandatory ‘Trigger Warnings’ for Pro-Life Displays

Monica Sanchez | March 16, 2018
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Miami University Hamilton in Ohio has agreed to eliminate mandatory “trigger warnings” for pro-life displays as part of a settlement with Students for Life of America (SFLA), Campus Reform reports.

SFLA sued the university in December after a university official insisted the pro-life group post a “warning” in front of its "Cemetery of the Innocents" display of 300 crosses, each representing 1,000 babies aborted that year.

The administrator said that the event could cause other students “emotional trauma” and suggested that SFLA consider “less harmful” ways of communicating its message.

In response, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against Miami University on SFLA’s behalf, claiming it was violating the group’s First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was a success. The university agreed to scrap its unconstitutional polices as well as pay damages and attorney fees.

“Under the terms of the settlement, which SFLA announced in a press release Friday, the university agreed to abandon or revise multiple policies, including the one used to impose mandatory trigger warning on displays and another that ADF argued gave university officials the authority to restrict speech ‘simply because it could ‘cause alarm, annoyance, or nuisance,’” writes Campus Reform. “Additionally, the university has agreed to pay SFLA’s damages and attorneys’ fees totaling $22,389, including court costs.”

SFLA president Kristan Hawkins called it “a victory for the free speech rights of students, who should not be told that their support of mothers and their preborn children is some kind of shameful act that should be apologized for or vilified as harmful.”

ADF legal counsel Travis Barham commended the university “for quickly recognizing that its officials do not have the authority to censor student speech simply because of how someone might respond to it.”

Claire Wagner, director of University News and Communications, told Campus Reform that the case was one of “an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“All Miami University students and student organizations have First Amendment rights to free speech. As a result, the University does not approve or disapprove of any student organization’s display based on content or subject matter. Miami University does not require trigger warnings,” the statement reads.

“Our values dictate that we protect the rights of our students and student organizations to hold and express disparate beliefs and we encourage the discussion and learning that comes from sharing our differences. 

“Further, while a Policy for Campus Exhibits was provided to the student organization, such a policy does not exist and that policy will not become a university policy."

Other college pro-life groups across the nation have erected the same display on campus and have fallen victim to vandalism and similar affronts on free speech.  

(Cover Photo: Flickr / Democracy Chronicles) 

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