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Sophie Downes: Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and Free Speech, Too
Answer the following questions:
- Downes argues that the Ellison letter “came across as an embarrassing attempt to deflect attention from serious issues on campus” (2). What does she mean? How does this claim set up her main argument?
- Why does Downes mention that Dean Ellison is listed as a “safe space ally” (8) on a school website?
- In what sense could the Ellison letter be seen as “a public relations maneuver” (12)? Why does Downes consider this a bad thing?
- Why does Downes argue that denouncing “attempts by students to disrupt university-sponsored events … has little to do with trigger warnings and safe spaces” (13)? Do you agree?
- How does Downes think students on campus will respond to the Ellison letter?
Purpose and Audience
- What is Downes’s purpose in writing this article? What does she want to accomplish?
Style and Structure
- Downes offers a personal anecdote from her seminar on gender, sexuality, and disability. How does this example support her argument? What other information from the seminar could she have included?
- How would Downes’s essay be different if she structured it as a Rogerian argument? What changes would she have to make? Do you think that this strategy would be more or less effective than the one she uses?
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