By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
Hey, College Students: Life Will “Trigger” You. Better Get Used To It
Good editorial in the LA Times criticizing a call by the UCSB Student Senate to include “trigger warnings,” “cautions from professors, to be added to their course syllabi, specifying which days’ lectures will include readings or films or discussions that might trigger feelings of emotional or physical distress”:
Trigger warnings are part of a campus culture that is increasingly overprotective and hypersensitive in its efforts to ensure that no student is ever offended or made to feel uncomfortable.
Trigger warnings have been used on the Internet for a long time, first appearing on feminist websites visited by victims of sexual attacks; the goal was to protect assault victims from material that might trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. The warnings spread to a wide variety of websites and material that readers might find troubling.
That’s fine for websites that voluntarily choose to caution their visitors, but it’s exactly the wrong approach for colleges and universities. Oberlin College in Ohio already has gone further than UC Santa Barbara, issuing official trigger-warning guidelines for professors that sound almost like a parody of political correctness: “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic.”
Worse, the Oberlin guidelines go on to advise professors to remove “triggering material” from their courses entirely if it is not directly related to the course’s learning goals. Such instructions come dangerously close to censorship.
Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” is listed by Oberlin as one possible “trigger” book because of its themes of colonialism, racism, religious prejudice and more. At Rutgers, an op-ed in the student paper suggested that study of “The Great Gatsby” should require trigger warnings about violence and gore. And then what happens? Should students be excused from reading a work of great literature, or be allowed to read a sanitized version?
Professors, uncertain of what might be considered too sexual, too warlike or so forth, might issue warnings so broad that they’re meaningless, or feel pressured to bleach the syllabus to a pallid version of a real college course.
Students with psychological issues need to learn to deal with them — seeking therapy, not censorship for all.