If a student has asked you to use trigger warnings

The decision to warn students before teaching about potentially offensive, unsettling, or disturbing subjects is best left to the discretion of the individual professor. 

See PEN America’s And Campus For All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities


    Often, students speak out not with the purpose of disciplining a professor but to vocalize a sense of alienation. Consider a range of responses before taking action.


    Make an effort to understand why the student has requested these warnings for themselves or for others.


    Familiarize yourself with campus policies. Most universities don’t require trigger warnings, so your action will likely be up to your discretion.


    Universities cannot and should not position themselves institutionally to avert every possibly upsetting encounter with course material. If you choose to take action to lessen the effect of upsetting course material, your goal should not be to avoid any and all discomfort.


    The decision should be yours. If you decide to offer students a preview of troubling content in a syllabus, the university should not prevent you from doing so. Nor should it impose such a decision on you. Whatever you decide, communicate your choice clearly to students and consider sharing your thought process with them to facilitate understanding.


    You may want to keep your department head informed throughout your interactions with the student who has requested the trigger warning. If there is any conflict between you and the student, you should not be expected to resolve the situation on your own.

External Resources