On Trigger Warnings (Suck One Skidnews)

Written by Executive Editor on October 6th, 2015

A trigger warning is not an invitation for evasion.

According to the Skidmore News, “trigger warnings” – essentially disclaimers in class discussions reminding us to be wary of other students in the room and the intricacies of their own backstories – are an easy ticket out of navigating the more sensitive, complex issues we might encounter. Skidnews writes, “trigger warnings lead to close-mindedness, complacency and intellectual laziness—why think about something hard, when you can think about something easy?”

This, however, is a remarkably short-sighted approach to the nature of trigger warnings. Rather than dissuading students from having frank, open discussions, these disclaimers are a way of pressing students to acknowledge the immediacy of the more fragile issues we might approach in a classroom. Professors are choosing to offer these warnings because these discussions are worth having – because in order to create an intellectual space in which these dialogues can maintain themselves it is important to remember our context. Situating ourselves in a room on a campus where a number of the more “triggering” issues have made direct impressions on the people seated on either side of us does not hinder our ability to engage in honest, insightful, contemplative conversation but rather feeds it. While of course there are students who relish trigger warnings as cop-outs – ways to avoid the necessity to formulate or verbalize opinions on tumultuous topics or to check out of class time all together – the fragment of the student body who this holds true for is a small one (I would argue, a relatively negligible one).

The perceived necessity to think and speak within the confines of extreme political-correctness certainly impacts our willingness to speak candidly on this campus. When we are chastised for our insensitive selection of adjectives it certainly doesn’t perpetuate our desire to speak openly. But this, I feel, is far more dangerous than the implications of a trigger warning. This is a way of curtailing the way we speak rather than adjusting the content of our speech. The trigger warning doesn’t encourage us to communicate in any particular way, but rather, reminds us of the immediacy of the content of our discussions. It reminds us that being distinctly aware of the campus we live on and the students it houses is crucial when it comes to establishing our own opinions on matters like sexual assault, race relations and gender equality. Trigger warnings pull our focus closer to the reality of these phenomenons, rather than censoring them out of our discussions as a whole.

An issue that triggers is generally one worthy of dialogue and as Nora Grubb claimed in an impressive tirade against the narrow mindedness of the Skidmore news (and a defense of the warnings themselves), “President Glotzbach said he is committed to ‘communicating difficult ideas’ and solving them. Instead of hiding from the former, we must acknowledge that difficult (and scary) things do happen and affect our peers.” Trigger warnings are not about censorship but rather about acknowledging that there are perspectives, vulnerable ones, that supplement our own. Well done to the Skidmore News for instigating an important, relevant discussion on campus, but this is a gleaming example of the editorial board’s obvious inability to truly engage with their own audience. Despite the new and improved web platform, the Skidmore News is hardly a voice for the student body.

A trigger warning invites us to engage in conversation with those of us who are victims of rape, assault, racism, sexism and a number of other abuses. Rather than discouraging us from having these discussions, the disclaimers allow us to acknowledge our peers who have had face-to-face contact with some of the more terrifying realms of of experience both here and far beyond the not-so-sunny little world of Saratoga Springs. We are a vulnerable, intelligent, sensitive, and sometimes jaded amalgamation of inputs when it comes to the more triggering discussions, and for that reason, we should speak with the impressive weight of those perspectives in mind.


13 Comments so far ↓

  1. Miles Calzini says:

    Well-written, thanks for being more in touch with the actual realities of the differing experiences of every person on this campus.

  2. JR says:

    The Skidmore News editorial staff are not “others” – they are made up of a group of your peers. Editors of the Skidmore News are individuals who feel passionately enough to be regular attendees of the Skidmore News general meetings – it is astronomically EASY to become a member of the Skidmore News editorial board due to general lack of interest in what should be a point of pride for a student body as intelligent and opinionated as Skidmore’s.

    My goal of this comment is not to take away from the questionable content of the Skidmore News’s article and the position it took but rather draw attention to the reason WHY this article was produced – lack of diversity of student participation. Instead of berating and telling the motivated and human staff of the Skidmore News to “suck one”, I encourage you the writer and you the readers and agreers of this post to JOIN the all-inclusive and open-armed staff of the Skidmore News. All you need to bring is your wealth of opinions.

    • SEL says:

      Who would want to join Skidmore News when the staff of Skidmore News, and particularly the writer of the article in question, has their head stuck too far up their own ass to realize the atrocities that affect so many individuals in this community?

      I think that the editor of Skidmore News should be called upon to offer up a little more of an explanation for the article other than, “a lack of diversity of student participation.” I wouldn’t hesitate to think that others would like, and deserve, an explanation as well.

  3. MKM says:

    JR- is right. if we care about moving this conversation forward (and not just bragging about our own armchair activism) we need to have our official media outlets made up of diverse minds and opinions.
    article probably would not have been published if more social activist-minded people got involved in their own college’s publication.

  4. BL says:

    ^^^Arent these people saying they condemn the skidmore news, but want people to join it to make it better?
    Maybe that’s what I’m saying??

  5. rackcity says:

    JR, both our peers and our friends make up the Skidmore News.

    Skidmore Unofficial prides itself on having an awry perspective and satirical opinion — in telling Skidmore News to “suck one” we are knowingly encouraging a response such as yours.

    Skidmore Unofficial values a variety of opinions. Therefore, one of our writer’s chose to lend hers to the matter at hand.

    Skidmore Unofficial does not wish to undermine the Skidmore News, though it wishes that the Skidmore News would have written a more well researched and eloquent article.

  6. rackcity says:

    I meant wry perspective

  7. Car says:

    Maybe what we can all at least agree on is that—an article subtitled “suck one” is an affront referring (at least slightly) to sexual violence. Such a headline engages in rape culture.
    Even if it’s only slightly aggressive, and meant in good fun, it still can be harmful to reuse that type of language.

  8. Reader says:

    In response to Car: did you even read the part of this article on politically correct speech? Did you even read past the headline? Obviously the writer is more than aware of the controversy in the headline

  9. A Guy says:

    The Skidnews article challenged something and provoked a lot of discussion. I think that was the point. They weren’t trying to say trigger warnings don’t have a place. Telling them to go suck one seems a bit counterintuitive to me. It wasn’t a personal attack, just one side of the debate. I believe both sides of the argument, when well formulated are an important issue.

    • Another Guy says:

      Yeah but the Skidnews article was offensive to anyone who finds trigger warnings valuable. It was poor journalism. This piece at least is sensitive and well written even if it attacks skidnews (which we all know is an easy attack)

  10. ou812 says:

    Who gets to decide what is triggering? Whoever’s most oppressed?

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