Warnings aren’t needed in class

Excessive warnings conflict with the goals of higher education.

At the University of California-Santa Barbara, students have advised teachers to excuse students from class if they feel course material might cause them emotional or psychological distress.

The Santa Barbara student senate passed a resolution that advises professors to preface lectures with “trigger warnings” that would warn students of any material that could potentially result in feelings of discomfort or stress. It’s important to note that the resolution is only advisory.

According to the student senate website, the triggers include “rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, suicide, graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping and graphic depictions of gore.” The proposal seems to focus on protecting students who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A student involved with drafting of the proposal confirmed these intentions to Santa Barbara’s student newspaper, The Daily Nexus.

We fully acknowledge the small percentage of students at colleges that suffer from stress disorders that make them more sensitive to certain material. For students suffering with PTSD or other psychological disorders, trigger warnings make sense.

But there’s an important difference between trigger warnings for diagnosed illnesses (i.e., epilepsy) and trigger warnings that allow any student to skip class when the material in lecture includes discontenting or graphic material. It makes little sense to allow students to excuse themselves simply because they don’t want to cover uncomfortable material.

Colleges and universities are not safe houses for students, and they should not protect students from uncomfortable or emotionally provocative lessons. This student-driven proposal seeks to shield other students from duress, and though it may be well-intentioned, it has no place in a community of intellectual growth.