Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Trigger Keeps Being Pulled

It may seem like a long time ago, but it really wasn't, when debate over "triggers" was popular in academia.  One version was that syllabi should have warnings for students who might be offended ("triggered") by some reading.  Naturally, that version spurred concerns about academic freedom.  Anyhow, no one seems to be talking about triggers any more.

However, there was a trigger element in an incident at UC-Santa Barbara in which some high school-age anti-abortion demonstrators came on campus with signs.*  A faculty member took away a sign from a demonstrator, destroyed it, and made some kind of physical contact with the demonstrator.  The faculty member was arrested and ultimately pleaded "no contest" in July after a court rejected the trigger notion.  She was sentenced to some community service.

Apparently, that court decision has not ended the matter; the trigger keeps being pulled. A civil suit has now been filed against the faculty member, some of her students, and the UC Regents as her employer.  See

For legal types, the actual suit is at

Litigation against the university is often discussed in Regents meetings, but typically in closed session.  The agenda for the November Regents meeting has not been put online yet (as of this blog post).  Since the lawsuit is recent, it may not be on the agenda.  UCLA Prof. Eugene Volokh in the first link above says that holding UC liable under California law may be complicated.

*The UC-Santa Barbara campus seemed to be a center of support for the trigger idea, including statements at Regents meetings during public comment sessions.  We noted this phenomenon on the blog early on - before we really had an idea concerning what the speakers were talking about.  See

No comments: