Should college courses come with trigger warnings–labels designed to prevent the hypersensitive from encountering ideas that perturb them? While many supporters of free expression and academic freedom have already weighed in against the trigger warning craze, now a psychologist is adding her informed perspective.
Students suffering from post traumatic stress disorder would not be helped by trigger warnings, wrote Sarah Roff, a psychologist and former professor of literature at Princeton University.
“I am also skeptical that labeling sensitive material with trigger warnings will prevent distress,” wrote Roff in a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Since triggers are a contagious phenomenon, there will never be enough trigger warnings to keep up with them. It should not be the job of college educators to foster this process.”
Far-left students have been asking for trigger warnings in increasing numbers. Students at Rutgers, George Washington University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Oberlin College believe that the works of Homer, for instance, should come with a trigger warning for sexual assault–protecting victims of rape from a course that might “trigger” their emotions. (RELATED: Even NYT Thinks Colleges Are Taking Political Correctness Too Far)
But according to Roff, that’s the wrong way to help people struggling with PTSD.
“One of the cardinal symptoms of PTSD is avoidance, which can become the most impairing symptom of all,” she wrote. “If someone has been so affected by an event in her life that reading a description of a rape in Ovid’s Metamorphoses can trigger nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks, she is likely to be functionally impaired in areas of her life well beyond the classroom. The solution is not to help these students dig themselves further into a life of fear and avoidance by allowing them to keep away from upsetting material.”