CAMBRIDGE University’s student newspaper Varsity is putting ‘trigger warnings’ on articles to avoid upsetting its readers.
The policy meant that a story in a recent issue about the spiking of student drinks on a night out was preceded by: ‘Content note: This article contains discussion of spiking and sexual harassment.’
In another article, about people dressing as Zulus to attend a bonfire, readers were warned: ‘Content note: This article contains descriptions and discussions of racism and blackface.’
Editor Isabel Sebode said: ‘It’s just something that’s evolved organically over time. If an article mentions something which may upset somebody, then we believe they’ll want to be made aware of that. It’s effectively protecting them more.’
That’s all very well – but is enough being done? Surely students who might consult previous issues of Varsity also need to be safeguarded from shocks to their sensitivities? So let’s go back through the files for the past 90 years to see what warnings can be retrospectively attached . . .
1931: Millions jobless as Great Depression deepens
*Content note: This article contains references which may set you wondering if your Mickey Mouse degree is a waste of three years and the thick end of £60,000 and if you’ll end up stacking shelves at Tesco.
1939: Hitler invades Poland
*Content note: This article contains an account of a controversial method of achieving a united Europe which you may find distressing.
1948: National Health Service starts
*Content note: This article contains information that may make you want to join a private health scheme.
1963: Big Freeze hits Britain
*Content note: This article may give you the impression that we’re heading for a New Ice Age, but – as we all know (and if we say otherwise we’ll be hounded out) – the world is warming and we’re doomed.
2008: World financial crash
*Content note: This article contains information which may alarm you about the integrity of your trust fund or the future of your credit at the Bank of Mum and Dad.
2016: Britain votes to quit EU
*This article contains information which could make you fear that your plan for being slotted into a cushy job in Brussels thanks to your Eurocrat French uncle has now gone pear-shaped.
1980s onwards: ‘Climate change’ crisis
*Content note: This article contains information which may bring on the urge to hero-worship a strange pigtailed Swedish goblin or glue yourself to a road.
2019: Boris Johnson becomes PM
*Content note: This article contains information which may make you want to lie down in a darkened room or emigrate.
2020: Covid pandemic strikes
*Content note: This article contains information which you may find causes an irresistible compulsion to set up a company which will win you a £5million contract supplying medical equipment to the NHS if one of your mates is in the Government.