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Trigger Warnings in Classroom

by Liz Laughlin

Trigger warnings have made quite the appearance in recent headlines. In late August, the University of Chicago warned incoming students that they would not use trigger warnings of any kind. The decision to use these labels has raised questions about academic freedom.

Trigger warnings, which began online, appear before graphic content. These labels seek to prevent emotional relapse and have made their way into academia. Pitt-Greensburg students and faculty hold their own opinions on this controversial topic.

Dr. Amber McAlister, Assistant Professor of Art History, feels conflicted when it comes to trigger warnings. Although she has not used one officially, McAlister stated that she would accommodate for a student’s needs.

“I would never make a student relive an experience,” McAlister said.

She also “expects to evolve in her perspective,” and could see herself eventually incorporating trigger warnings. McAlister, in her own classes, warns about adult and war content.

Academic village coordinator Sheila Confer also continues to evolve in her perspective.

“There is a legitimate place for them [trigger warnings],” Confer said. “They are not a get-out-of-class free card to avoid uncomfortable material.”

Confer, who is also a part-time theater arts instructor, allows students to excuse themselves from provoking material.

“If a movie is violent, I tell them they are allowed to take a break,” Confer said.

Senior Michael Petrosky, Management major, believes trigger warnings could make it possible for students to skip assignments. He also recognized those suffering from PTSD.

However, Petrosky suggested his own solutions.

“One idea may be to put out two editions of every book, one original, and one with any possible triggers rewritten to suit the needs of anyone fitting this category,” Petrosky said. “Another idea that seems more plausible to me is to require that a diagnose this to prove that it is an actual medical condition.”

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