I have been reading some discussions lately about the idea of providing trigger warnings for material in a given college course, generally somewhere that the student would see said warnings before selecting the course. (Note: I am not linking to any stories because I really want to talk about the general idea, not the specific implementations.) Unlike the requirement that schools list textbooks next to courses in the schedule (which was allegedly about allowing them to shop around for best prices, but was really part of David Horowitz’s campaign to make certain that students never be exposed to ideas they disagreed with), this movement seems to target the same sort of triggers that are discussed in relation to fanworks: sexual assault, traumatic events, racism, colonialism, etc. The idea is that these things are not merely upsetting, but can trigger a panic attack or other psychological trauma in the reader/viewer.
I am having trouble organizing any thoughts on this. How to deal with controversial or potentially upsetting, to say nothing of triggering, material is something I have gone round and round on several times, and in fact have found myself in a pretty sound minority on at times.
So, I thought I’d ask: what do people think of this idea, of a college or university providing trigger warnings in course descriptions? Yay? Nay? Put them in the syllabus but not the catalog? Other thoughts?
Please note: I…well, obviously, I do have a horse in this race, but I haven’t named it yet, so I am not intending to argue one side or the other. If I ask you questions, I am not challenging; I am seeking clarity. Likewise, please be aware that this is an emotional topic, and try to be respectful, okay?
(Is it sad that now I’m kind of pondering making this a paper topic?)