The Student News Site of Heschel School




Cornell University Rightfully Rejects Proposed Trigger Warning Requirement

Jordan Schwartz ’24

In recent years, trigger warnings have become a hotly debated topic. While proponents argue that they are necessary to create safe spaces on college campuses, others question their impact on intellectual growth and academic freedom. Trigger warnings should not be required in college classrooms as they hinder students’ ability to develop coping strategies for the real world. However, in order to simulate real world situations, a policy should be instated allowing students to leave a class without being questioned.

Claire Ting, a sophomore at Cornell University, was studying with her friends when she noticed that one became upset after reading a graphic rape scene from a book for her Korean literature class. The student had recently testified at a sexual assault trial and said that reading the passage so soon afterward triggered her. 

Ting, a member of Cornell’s undergraduate student assembly, drafted a resolution to require professors to give a heads-up to students when introducing particularly triggering content. The resolution was unanimously approved by the assembly but vetoed by the president of the university, Martha E Pollack. “We cannot accept this resolution, as the actions it recommends would infringe on our core commitment to academic freedom and freedom of inquiry, and are at odds with the goals of a Cornell education,” Pollack wrote in a letter to students.

Trigger warnings do not infringe on “academic freedom” or “inquiry.” Trigger warnings don’t prevent students from voicing their opinions or questions. However, shielding students from discomfort or potentially triggering content denies them the opportunity to build resilience and develop the emotional tools necessary to navigate the complexities of the real world. Life itself does not come with trigger warnings, and sheltering students from uncomfortable topics fails to prepare them for the challenges they will inevitably face beyond academia. It is important for trauma survivors to learn proper coping skills (CBT and ERP) to deal with flashbacks and other repercussions that might come from reading or overhearing a conversation about a triggering topic. Unfortunately, the best way to learn these strategies is to practice them, and college should be a safe space for this difficult journey. 

Yet, in order to create this safe space, students should always be allowed to leave the room, just as they would be able to leave a triggering conversation in the real world. Perhaps a rule could be enacted wherein students are always allowed to leave class without being questioned. After all, missing class for an undue reason is an option all college students have from the get-go. This type of policy could let students struggling with the consequences of a traumatic experience develop their coping skills in a private setting.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Helios

Your donation will support the student journalists of Heschel School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Helios

Comments (0)

All Helios Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *