With current concern over incidents of sexual assault on America’s college campuses and with veterans returning to American universities in significant numbers after more than a decade of war in the Middle East, there has been a growing debate over how universities should protect students who may be coping with post – traumatic stress disorder from further injury. Some have argued that faculty should be required to provide “trigger warnings” in course syllabi, alerting students in advance to course content that might be disturbing to traumatized individuals.Source: 31st Annual Symposium in Forensic Psychology
Creating a duty by faculty to foresee and warn against possible emotional distress as a reaction to literature or art or ot her course materials raises serious concerns about academic freedom. However, would such warnings help to protect traumatized individuals from further trauma — or those around them from violent reactions to trauma triggers? Research suggests that identifying potential trauma triggers is far more difficult than looking for explicit depictions of violence or rape. Even seemingly neutral images associated with past trauma may evoke painful or violent responses. Before creating a new duty to foresee and warn against trauma triggers, policy make r s need to consider whether research and clinical experience indicate that the utility of trigger warnings would outweigh their chilling effect on free speech and robust scholarly inquiry.
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