‘Tis the season for making spring semester syllabi, and I thought I’d share the trigger warning statement that I’ve developed over the past year or so. I’m sure it’s far from perfect, but I’m hoping that it addresses the needs of students who do have PTSD (or other traumatic) reactions, while still maintaining a rigorous classroom environment. Many things have been written about trigger warnings, and I tend to fall into the camp of thinking that the good they do for students who really need them is bigger than the harm caused by students who abuse them. So far, this policy has worked fairly well (at least, from my perspective) – allowing students the flexibility to attend to their own mental health while unpholding accountability.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about “trigger warnings” – indicators that something so disturbing as to make participation difficult (i.e. death, dismemberment, assault, gore) will be covered in a particular class. To the best of my knowledge, we will not be dealing with these types themes in this class, but the history of [class topic] can be complicated, and I can’t guarantee that any of your projects or our readings won’t brush up against something that might be triggering. During the semester, I’ll do my best to be transparent about when we’ll be engaging with issues that I anticipate might be particularly troubling, and I ask you to come see me if you have any concerns about topics that might actively disrupt your ability to participate in this course. If such issues do arise, I will work with you to find alternate assignments, or to strategically pick which classes to skip. Remember that you may skip up to three classes with no attendance penalty, and that you are free to use those absences for whatever purpose you wish – inclusive of potentially triggering material. [my school mandates that student athletes be allowed to miss a certain number of classes depending on the frequency of course meetings – I extend this to all students]