Letter to the Editor: In Response to “No Trigger Warnings”
The concept of trigger warnings is one I have grappled with for some time. I want to be a part of a community that talks openly about difficult subjects. I don’t want to leave college having felt like I was living in a bubble. I don’t think there is anyone here at Skidmore that does not agree with the statement “Education should be challenging.” I can even see how, in an attempt to create a safe space for everyone, we become vulnerable to “complacency” or “intellectual laziness.” However, I also think that it is extremely important to protect individuals who may find certain subjects, such as sexual assault, violence, or abuse to be psychologically damaging. Telling someone who is struggling to complete an assignment because of PTSD that they are being “intellectually lazy” is like telling someone who is struggling to run five miles because of asthma that they are being lazy. And that’s not okay.
But what’s the solution? How to we reconcile the desire to be a community that is discussing challenging ideas with the need to protect all of our members? Somewhere amidst the national discussion on trigger warnings that’s been present these past few years, I heard the term “brave space” used. I think this concept of a “brave space” as opposed to a “safe space” is key. We should be striving to create a community of trust in which individuals have the support to be brave enough to face the hard issues. I think that trigger warnings are a key part of creating this brave space; it’s just that sometimes we misuse them. Students should enter the classroom knowing that if triggering material is going to be introduced, they will have fair warning and access to any support they might need in dealing with said material. When triggering material comes as a surprise, it can cause a student to panic, shut down, and tune out on the discussion. However, if trigger warnings are presented as just that, a warning, and not simply an easy way out, we can create a “brave space” in which everyone has the support necessary to tackle the difficult issues.