In May 2014, the New York Times called attention to a new arrival on the college campus: trigger warnings.1 Seemingly overnight, colleges and universities across America had begun fielding student demands that their professors issue content warnings before covering any material that might evoke a negative emotional response. By way of illustration, the Times article (titled ‘Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm’) pointed to a Rutgers student’s op-ed requesting trigger warnings for The Great Gatsby, which apparently ‘possesses a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence’, and Mrs Dalloway, which the student called ‘a disturbing narrative’ that discusses ‘suicidal inclinations’ and ‘post-traumatic experiences’.2 The article generated significant discussion, with readers questioning why college students would need trigger warnings — which are generally billed as a way to help those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental-health condition — before reading the type of material that any college student should expect to encounter on any college campus.
KeywordsSexual Assault College Campus Free Speech Physical Security Emotional Appeal
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