Trigger Warnings

On April 6, 2018, the Productive Discomfort cohort discussed trigger warnings. Below are some notes from that session:

A limited background on trigger warnings:

  • A trigger warning lets students know in advance about content that may be considered upsetting such as violent or sexual situations.
  •  The purpose of a trigger warning is not to allow the student to opt out of the content but to prepare the student for a complex topic and provide an enriched discussion.
  •  Trigger warnings began on the Internet as a way to prepare individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for violent content. Also, some users can add tags such as tw:epilepsy or tw:migraine to help other users avoid flashing gifs that may be problematic.
  • “My friends and I use trigger warnings as a display of respect for each other’s difficult experiences and to engage with challenging content when we are best equipped to do so.”  — Ella Dawson, featured contributor @femsplain, social at @TEDTalks.

The cohort discussed:

  • Different ways of providing trigger warnings including verbally, visually on PowerPoint, and in email before class.
  • How unpredictable “triggers” can be. Often, individuals with PTSD do not know what will trigger them.
  • Framing  a trigger warning as communal responsibility. Encourage students to experience their discomfort but move to agency as quickly as possible. It was pointed out that this follows the Ignatian Experience, Reflection, Action model.
  • The library’s Kanopy resource has many documentaries and other resources that may be helpful with finding appropriate course materials.

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