Warning: College can be upsetting

Trigger warning

Professors should warn their students about potentially traumatic material, writes Philip Wythe, a Rutgers student, in the Daily Targum.

For instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s critically acclaimed novel, “The Great Gatsby,” possesses a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence. Virginia Woolf’s famous cerebral narrative, “Mrs. Dalloway,” paints a disturbing narrative that examines the suicidal inclinations and post-traumatic experiences of an English war veteran.

“Trigger warnings” about potentially upsetting material are the latest campus fad, reports the New York Times. Advocates believe many students suffer from post-traumatic stress due to rape, domestic violence, racism, sexism, classism, ableism, military service or other things.

Professors aren’t happy about it, reports the Times. “Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace.”

“Any kind of blanket trigger policy is inimical to academic freedom,” said Lisa Hajjar, a sociology professor at (University of California at Santa Barbara), who often uses graphic depictions of torture in her courses about war. “Any student can request some sort of individual accommodation, but to say we need some kind of one-size-fits-all approach is totally wrong. The presumption there is that students should not be forced to deal with something that makes them uncomfortable is absurd or even dangerous.”

Trigger proponents believe the classroom is supposed to be a “safe space” in which “no one should feel upset, anxious or uncomfortable,” writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. He proposes a warning during registration:

“The world is rife with racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” the Oberlin course catalog might say. “Students taking courses in the humanities and social sciences should expect to grapple regularly with those phenomena and other fraught, uncomfortable subjects besides, in both course materials and classroom discussions with people who don’t share their values, judgments, or assumptions.”

That this doesn’t go without saying is an indictment of leading universities.

Yes, life can be a “hostile environment.”

America’s college kids are mollycoddled babies, writes Checker Finn. “These are the same kids who would riot in the streets if their colleges asserted any form of in loco parentis when it comes to such old-fashioned concerns as inebriation and fornication. God forbid they should be treated as responsible, independent adults!”

Jonathan Zimmerman offers a sample syllabus for a U.S. history course with warnings.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    Absolutely crazy what parents are doing to kids…truly sad!

    May the professor add if you miss class you get a zero for that day…

  2. “Professors aren’t happy about it, reports the Times.”

    That’s BS, at least to imply it implies the opinion is common among professors. We know that several professors at the universities this is active at are promoting trigger warnings.

    We should keep in mind that the schools where the trigger nonsense is prevalent, selected the professors who are promoting this were selected to form the unique education experience. Not to mention, they painstakingly hand-pick their students to form the educational environment the administrators think is important.

    Prospective students should keep in mind that on campuses where this is happening, it is happening in the carefully handcrafted environment the university designed.

  3. Foobarista says:

    Precious. Oh my Precious!