Letter to the Editor: Responding to "No Trigger Warnings"
I used to be someone who advocated against trigger warnings.
I sided with writers and thinkers like Peggy Noonan who criticized “delicate” college students. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Noonan asked, “Do you wish to be known as the first generation that comes with its own fainting couch?” Though I didn’t see myself as antagonistic as the conservative writer, I held a similar perspective. I lamented the seemingly fragile environment many liberal arts colleges and prestigious universities were turning into, and scoffed at students who turned every teachable moment into moral hysteria.
By no means should we censor great literature or certain texts, though, as students, it is our responsibility to challenge and critique the canon. President Glotzbach said he is committed to “communicating difficult ideas” and solving them. Instead of hiding from the former, we must acknowledge that difficult (and scary) things do happen and affect our peers. You write, “We have screamed the buzz words ‘trigger warning!’ in order to steer clear of reality.” Instead of attacking trigger warnings, I think it’d be beneficial if you’d converse with those that have been abused, assaulted, or attacked and find out how it feels for triggering things to be a part of their reality. The purpose of trigger warnings is neither to coddle nor infantilize students, but to prevent strong emotional responses and in many cases, post-traumatic episodes.
My perspective has changed. Life doesn’t come with a trigger warning (it wouldn’t be life if it did), but if we have the ability to make academia safer for survivors and/or victims, why wouldn’t we? When used wisely, trigger warnings symbolize not “intellectual laziness” as you write, but rather intellectual empathy.
For now, I suggest you read “Why I Use Trigger Warnings” in the New York Times and “The Coddling of the American Mind” in the Atlantic (the respective authors differ in opinion). I’d also recommend Professor Mason Stokes’s article, “In Defense of Trigger Warnings” published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Stokes writes, “Those who oppose trigger warnings like to lambast the millennial generation for being whiny and sheltered, so afraid of life that it must be protected from it. But this is to conflate difficulty with trauma, to miss the distinction between that which helps us find our place in the world, and that which removes us from it. Surely a trigger warning in certain instances isn’t too much to ask.”
I urge you to ask yourself: Is it?
P.S. This type of uninformed, “easy” ignorance and mediocre journalism is exactly why the Skidmore News is such a popular punch line among students on campus.