Faculty debate trigger warnings

June 2, 2014

A group of 7 humanities professors have explained their opposition to including “trigger warnings” on course syllabuses. They note that predicting what might trigger post-traumatic stress is inherently difficult, and complain of a failure to distinguish between critical representations of trauma and those which are sensationalistic. The article adds that universities may face legal implications should trigger warnings fail to effectively help students avoid post-traumatic stress. The authors also voice their concern about the impact of trigger warnings on professors' abilities to freely choose course materials. The authors do propose alternatives: they suggest that faculty should offer lists of resources for students who have suffered traumatic incidents, and call for increased institutional attention to matters such as sexual assault, violence, and harassment. Meanwhile, another professor has written in favour of trigger warnings, recalling an incident in which a student was hospitalized after an incident in an assigned novel triggered a post-traumatic episode. He says there is a distinction between difficult materials and traumatic experience, and that survivors of traumatic episodes have legitimate reasons to avoid some material. Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education