DUELING COLUMN: Trigger warnings don’t prepare you for the real world.

"Just because a conversation is uncomfortable doesn't mean it should be avoided." | Graphic by Alba Rosa, PantherNOW

Heidi Cuevas | Assistant Opinion Director

In a troubling age of electronics where disturbing content is shown randomly on our feeds, the warning helps advise caution to unprepared viewers. But, during university courses, discussing sensitive topics is inevitable.

Assuming we are responsible students, our time here helps us develop a thick skin as we become accustomed to having difficult conversations. Just because a conversation is uncomfortable doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

Although we are grateful to the professors for including trigger warnings in the syllabus so students can prepare, they generally weaken our interaction with problematic topics. Sadly, these topics will always be here, so it’s vital to understand how we mentally and emotionally deal with them when they arise outside the classroom.

Ultimately, trigger warnings don’t prepare you for the real world.

We say this because we, as human beings, have experienced not-so-favorable events in our lifetime. For example, women between 18 and 24 are three times more likely to be at risk of sexual violence, and over 300 instances of gunfire occurred on campuses thus far. Those are but a few examples of the unfortunate reality we live in.

Although we may not be victims of those personally, learning the statistics will prepare us and many others to survive in these scenarios. Knowledge is power, so we shouldn’t derive from life-saving information because it makes us uncomfortable.

And what better way to learn about these conversations than in our classrooms, mediated by a professor? 

When hosting these conversations, it is crucial to be considerate. It means keeping an open mind, ears, and heart to those around you. If you don’t understand a topic, you can always ask the professor or a fellow student for the answer. If you disagree, it’s fine so long as you don’t boast about your stance disrespectfully. The classroom should be a safe space to discuss these topics without the fear of being judged or rudely interrupted by your peers. 

If we’re not considerate of others in a diverse university, it’s harder to be productive members of society.

Ultimately, trigger warnings can be helpful but shouldn’t be required. Students should be responsible for understanding what classes they’re taking and talking to professors if a topic will cause them mental anguish. 

Life doesn’t have trigger warnings – that would be nice, but the university should be step one in learning how to work with some of the difficult parts of life in a setting that allows for meaningful discussion. 

Alba Rosa contributed the data to this article.


The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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