DUELING COLUMN: Trigger warnings should be required, not an option.

"Students deserve the right to know what topics they are diving into and should not be left in the dark about any disturbing content." | Graphic by Alba Rosa, PantherNOW.

Kailey Krantz-Diaz | Staff Writer

No matter what class you take at FIU, you’re bound to come across sensitive topics, and a trigger warning must be in place before the discussion.

As someone taking English classes, the literary writing pieces and films used in the curriculum often address sensitive topics ranging from racism, self-harm, eating disorders, sexual assault, aggressive violence, homophobia, and more.

This is not the issue. Exposing students to these subjects gives them insight into a different perspective and helps them have difficult conversations with an open mind. 

The issue is that professors should be obligated to let students know the content they are about to teach.

These notes, called trigger warnings, are alerts that warn the reader or viewer “that the content…may cause distressing psychological or physiological reactions, especially in people who have previously experienced a related trauma,” according to a definition by Dictionary.com.

In my ENG 2012 class, one of the films we discussed was the 2011 Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life. I knew this film would be in line with our class discussion of existentialism, but was unaware of the disturbing scenes in the film until students in the group chat talked about its depictions of physical assault and domestic violence.

One scene that soured my experience watching the film was witnessing Brad Pitt’s character, Mr. O’Brien, physically assault his wife, Mrs. O’Brien, played by Jessica Chastain, in their home’s kitchen. 

The scene took me by surprise since I wasn’t aware of how graphic the scene would be. After the initial shock, I was fine, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.

I never experienced domestic violence in my life, but I sympathize with students who have and understand that watching this scene would’ve had worse effects on them without knowing this topic would be shown in the film.

That is why professors need to have content warnings in their syllabi. Arming students with the knowledge of difficult subjects in their coursework beforehand softens their reactions when they view it and allows the class to have a smoother discussion about these subjects.

This semester, I was pleased to see that one of my professors included a trigger warning in her syllabus so all of her students could be aware of the content she teaches in her class. It puts some ease into my mind and better prepares me for what I’m about to read.

If a trigger warning doesn’t show up on the class syllabus, please ask your professor what disturbing topics will appear in the coursework and implore them to do so in future semesters.

Students deserve the right to know what topics they are diving into and should not be left in the dark about disturbing content. 


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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