Cambridge student newspaper published trigger warnings at the beginning of stories that could upset sensitive readers

  • Cambridge University Paper Varsity Publishing ‘content Notes’ for Articles
  • Notes have been included in paper that is concerned with causing offence.
  • Trigger warnings are also available in the University Archive for classic children’s literature 

Varsity, the renowned student newspaper at Cambridge University, was once so brave that its editor was challenged to a duel.

It’s now so concerned about offending that it publishes ‘trigger Warnings’ at top stories. This could be upsetting to sensitive readers.

The paper reported last week on the spiking of student drinks on a night out – and readers were told at the top of the article: ‘Content note: This article contains discussion of spiking and sexual harassment.’

Another article was about Zulus dressing up to go to bonfires. The readers were informed that the article contained descriptions and discussion of racism and blackface. Another story, about a PhD candidate who was victim to an attack and police discrimination. The warning to readers was: “Contains an anti-Asian hate crime, and police discrimination.”

This paper has 10,000 copies. It reported on an incident at a student fair in which anti-abortionists and pro-choice activists clashed. The article’s top stated: “Content Warnings: Abortion violence against women, protests.”

The student newspaper has become so worried about causing offence that it's publishing 'trigger warnings' at the top of stories that sensitive readers could find upsetting (stock image)

A student newspaper became so afraid of causing offence, it published ‘trigger alerts’ at the end of stories that could upset sensitive readers (stock image).

Isabel Sebode (Editor) told Daily Mail that Varsity introduced warnings to ensure students in Cambridge were not upset.

She said that it was just an organic evolution over the years. We believe that if an article discusses anything which might upset someone, we think they will want to know about it. This is effectively protecting them even more. Miss Sebode thinks that the national media could be soon forced to do so.

She said, “I can see it happening on other publications,”. It will be on features. For example, someone who has suffered sexual abuse will probably want to know if the subject is mentioned in a story.

I don’t believe people are any more upset than they were in previous generations. It is just that I think we now try harder to be more respectful of people’s feelings and behave better. It is following in the footsteps of the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club that warned of the dangers of Rapunzel’s Christmas production.

Editor Isabel Sebode told the Daily Mail that Varsity had introduced the warnings because it believed Cambridge students expected not to be upset (stock image)

The Daily Mail’s Isabel Sebode, Editor, stated that Varsity introduced warnings to ensure students in Cambridge were not upset. (stock photo)

Cambridge Footlights’ show is described by them as being a “queer, colourful” version of the Brothers Grimm fairytale.

A trigger warning is placed on children’s classic books by the university for any ‘harmful material relating to slavery colonialism or racism’.

Jeremy Paxman from University Challenge, David Frost (broadcaster) and Michael Winner (film director for Death Wish), are just a few of Varsity’s ex-editors. The paper published some of Sylvia Plath’s earliest poetry and JG Ballard’s first published story.

Among Varsity's former editors are University Challenge host Jeremy Paxman, broadcaster David Frost and Death Wish film director Michael Winner

Jeremy Paxman (University Challenge) and David Frost (broadcaster), are some of Varsity’s ex-editors. Michael Winner is the Death Wish film director.