Teaching Trigger Warnings: What Pundits Don’t Understand About the Year’s Most Controversial Higher-Ed Debate
When Kyla Bender-Baird was an undergraduate a decade ago, a gender studies lecture she was attending ended with an incident she’ll never forget: a visiting professor played a rape victim’s graphic 911 call. Then the class was dismissed and, she says, everyone went home dazed and had “messed-up dreams” that night.
Although the professor apologized at the next session for failing to place the recording in appropriate context and give students adequate time to process it, Bender-Baird kept the incident in mind when she became a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, teaching sociology courses to undergraduates. Now, she includes a note at the end of her syllabus,that reads, in part:
It is my goal in this class to create a safe environment in which we examine our assumptions… Discomfort can be part of the learning process as we are challenged to shift our paradigms. I invite you to sit with this discomfort. However, if the discomfort starts to turn to distress, I want you to take care of yourself. You can withdraw from an activity or even leave the classroom.