Student leaders at the University of California Santa Barbara passed a resolution recently moving the school closer to including "trigger warnings" on class syllabi. Trigger warnings are disclaimers that alert you to material containing potentially traumatic subject matter.
The idea started on blogs, but it's now a growing academic trend in college classes that talk about war, rape, suicide, mental illness and the like that could provoke symptoms in victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the UCSB students senate meeting, sponsoring student Bailey Loverin explained her reasoning: “Tonight I am coming to you…first as a student, second as a woman and third, as a survivor of sexual abuse,” Loverin said. “Two weeks ago, I sat in class watching a film screening and felt forced to watch two scenes in which the instance of sexual assault was insinuated and one in which an instance of rape was graphically depicted … there was no warning before this film screening ... and it was incredibly difficult to sit through.”
How can professors handle tough topics gingerly for students who've endured trauma? What is the harm done if "trigger warnings" are included?
Bailey Loverin, Literature major at UC Santa Barbara; Loverin sponsored the mandate at the UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate
Jill Filipovic, Writer on gender issues for The Guardian