Rutgers considers use, implications of trigger warnings


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Trigger warning were established to caution an audience before discussing topics that could be considered overly jarring for certain people. On the other hand, some experts say trigger warnings have overstayed their welcome by being overused and inhibiting free speech. 

Zarina Chaudhry, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said trigger warnings have generally made her feel more comfortable in classes and while spending time with friends.

Megan DeVries, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, agreed. 

“I think that they are important. People should be forewarned before touchy subjects are talked about because you don't know their past and what they have been through,” DeVries said. “If you can avoid hurting someone or making him or her uncomfortable, then you should, especially if all it takes is a few words of warning.”

Philip Wythe, a School of Arts And Sciences senior, has done extensive research on trigger warnings.

Wythe wrote about the use of trigger warnings and also talked to students on campus who enduring panic attacks and traumatic responses in the classroom, and meeting other students around the Internet who had their own experiences. In addition, Wythe was featured on BBC, Huffington Post LIVE and Al Jazeera to discuss trigger warnings.

Trigger warnings have become overused, and their strength and importance have diminished over the past two years, Wythe said.

“Free speech is being stifled. I admire the work that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been doing to combat that. However, trigger warnings aren't the cause of these issues, this is based in a more general trend in today's society towards polarization, tribalism and extreme partisan bias,” Wythe said.

At Rutgers, students and faculty use these trigger warnings in class in order to ensure that students are able to go through class sessions without confronting distress.

“I think trigger warnings help students navigate course material and make decisions about whether they can approach classes with the full focus that they need in order to pass, and succeed, in courses,” Wythe said.

Chaudhry said she thinks trigger warnings have been helpful to students on campus and in classes and does not think trigger warnings are being overused. Instead, she said they an important part of classes at the University.

“Professors do mention if content would be difficult to hear and that students could feel free to excuse themselves if they needed to,” she said.

Chaudhry said she considers the warnings to be essential since people should have a choice to leave the room if they need to.

“I don’t think that people are getting overly sensitive to these things, I think sensitive topics do trigger strong emotions, and so to have a warning before someone talks about something like that is important,” Chaudhry said.


Sanjana Chandra

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