Making a Difference with Trigger Warnings

trigger-warningHello Vol Nation and anyone else who may be reading this.  Today we are oppressed with a question for most colleges; what effects are trigger warnings leaving within the student body of college campuses, and are they helpful?  We, as a student body, need to come together and ask that professors be encouraged to use trigger warnings in a classroom setting more frequently for the safety of students that have been victimized and have horrible pasts.  Greg Piper writes an article speaking of some universities enforcing trigger warnings.  He says that Drexel University in Philadelphia once told the press “it is expected that instructors will offer appropriate warning and accommodation regarding the introduction of explicit and triggering materials used” (Piper). I do not feel as though trigger warnings should be enforced within every classroom debate, as some colleges enforce them.  Trigger warnings will help colleges in many ways, helping the ones affected by rape and other harmful things aware of what is yet to come.

Imagine if a teacher of a human sexuality class sent out an e-mail explaining that the next class meeting would be over sexual assault and rape.  This would give a victim a heads up in making the decision of whether or not to come to that particular class if he or she were truly emotional about the subject.  Guy Boysen shows us how some professors feel about trigger warnings when he says “trigger warnings are problematic because they reduce academic freedom, have a chilling effect on the coverage of difficult topics, infantilize students, and portray the classroom as a place where students should not be challenged” (Boysen).  Here at UT we have a very respectable staff that would do anything they could for students.  Our professors want the absolute best for our futures and want to make us stronger individuals.  I feel as though most professors who truly want the best for their students would be accepting of trigger warnings and would use them frequently when sensitive material would arrive in their context.  Here is a short five minute video explaining why trigger warnings are useful and important in college classrooms and when they should be used (Trigger Warnings, Campus Speech, and the Right to Not Be Offended).

We are totally unaware of who may be affected by something that may seem minor to us.  Our peers have gone through very sensitive times that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  My mother told me of a story that happened while she was attending anthropology classes in the late 1980’s here at the University of Tennessee.  She told me how once a class taught under Dr. Bass was showing slides of a fireworks factory which had exploded.  Everyone inside the building was killed, and body parts were hanging from trees and strewn all around.  A girl ran out of the classroom crying, as this was part of her family’s business, and she had no prior knowledge of what she was about to see.  From then on, after this happening, anthropology classes have forewarned and given trigger warnings to make sure the students know what they may be seeing.  It is encouraging to see that a major class setting here at our university already uses trigger warnings and is concerned for the betterment of students.

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a dean at the well known Stanford University, and she wrote an article on a blogspot for The New York Times.  This picture relates closely as to how Lythcott Haims views Trigger warnings in America.


Her views on trigger warnings are quite the opposite of having trigger warnings in classrooms.  She feels as though students need to be submerged in sensitive material and not feel offended, which I agree with to a point.   I feel as though Lythcott-Haims truly wants the best for her students.  When talking about trigger warnings she says “I think it’s fine if the purpose is to steel a person for an upsetting conversation, but not when it’s used to insulate a person from having to contend with upsetting material at all” (Lythcott-Haims).  While she makes a valid point within the classroom setting, I feel as though the victim of the sensitive material should be able to do an alternative assignment or at least not have to hear about the upsetting material which may bring back old memories.  Another author who writes on The New York Times blogspot is Katie Byron.  She makes clear points as to why trigger warnings should be used and shows positive emotion about trigger warnings.  She says “safer learning environments ensure that students who have experienced violence are able to contribute without putting their experiences up for debate” (Byron).  This shows us that victims of violence are ensured to have a comfortable classroom setting.
Trigger warnings allow those with emotional pasts to not be hurt even more than they already have been, especially since we may not truly realize what they are feeling.  On The Huffington Post website, Lindsay Holmes broadly expresses her view on trigger warnings within college campuses.  She says “trigger warnings are potentially lifesaving for people who have dealt with traumas like sexual assault, hate crimes or violence. Eliminating these advisories and zones on campus suggests that someone should have to listen to someone who questions their humanity or experience” (Holmes).  Holmes represents the true meaning of trigger warnings perfectly here, showing her audience that they may not truly understand what a colleague may have gone through in the past.

In conclusion, trigger warnings are there for us to help those who are hurting and allow them to heal.  Trigger warnings allow those with sensitive pasts to heal.  It is up to us to help our peers in their time of healing and get our school to encourage our professors to use trigger warnings more often.  College is a place where we can come together and persevere, helping victims and treating them with most the utmost respect.  Some may view trigger warnings as being detrimental to class time and learning, but in the end trigger warnings create a more healthy learning environment for those who have had eventful pasts.

Works Cited

Boysen, Guy.  “Instructors’ Use of Trigger Warnings and Behavior Warnings in Abnormal Psychology.”  Teaching of Psychology, vol. 43 no. 4, 2016, pp.334-339. 10.1177/0098628316662766

Byron, Katie.  “Millennials Are Creating a More Inclusive and Just World.”  The New York Times Room for DebateThe New York Times,  21 December 2015, roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/ millennials-are-creating-a-more-inclusive-and-just-world.

Holmes, Lindsay.  “A Quick Lesson On What Trigger Warnings Actually Do.”  The Huffington Post, 26 August 2016, trigger-warning_us_57bf16d9e4b085c1ff28176d.

Image. “Atlantic Baby.” atlantic-baby-2,

Image. “Warning, Trigger Warning, Explicit Content .” trigger warning,

Lythcott-Haims, Julie.  “Millennials Will Soon Define ‘America,’ and That’s a Problem for Ideas.”  The New York Times Room for Debate, The New York Times, 21 December 2015, becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/millennials-will-soon-define-america-and-thats-a- problem-for-ideas.

Piper, Greg.  “Several colleges require faculty to use trigger warnings – just not explicitly.” The College Fix, 31 August 2016,

ReasonTv. “Trigger Warnings, Campus Speech, and the Right to Not Be Offended.” YouTube, 8 May 2014,


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