Call for Trigger Warning, Cornell University

March 2023
Cornell University (Private college or university)
Ithaca, NY

Identity of Speakers

  • Martha Pollack

    President of Cornell University

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Student publication
    Course Content
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
    Faculty sanctioned
    Faculty responses (e.g., asking student to leave classroom)
  • Incident Status:
    No litigation
  • Was Speech Code incident


Administrators at Cornell University denied a student resolution asking the university to require faculty to provide trigger warnings about content that could be unsettling to students. This resolution would allow students to have advance notice before seeing something that could be traumatic, this included but was not limited to, sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide, and racial hate crimes. This resolution gave students the opportunity to remove themselves from the classroom beforehand.

Following the resolutions submission, the university responded by denying it under the claim that it would limit their commitment to academic freedom and inquiry. Cornell President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff wrote that it would infringe upon the faculty’s ability to determine how and what they teach.

Students responded stating that this denial was not in protection of their freedoms, but rather would harm their learning. They stated that not passing this resolution could create an unsettling or traumatic learning environment for students at Cornell University.