When college political correctness goes too far

Those who try to enforce trigger warnings in the name of political sensitivity are inhibiting free speech.

Gaby Dinh, Web Editor

Trigger warning; the following article may be considered offensive. It is recommended that you don’t read it at all. Or at least, this is the case with college education today.

College education is supposed to be seen as the avenue where students can be challenged to broaden their horizons and achieve intellectual discoveries. However, this is being stifled with the rise of trigger warnings on sensitive topics in college classrooms today, limiting academic freedom.

Some college students are becoming sensitive to, even intolerant of, controversial topics, coercing their professors to use trigger warnings in the classroom, and this oversensitive environment has affected college education on a bigger scale. At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, administrators presented training sessions to the deans and department chairs of the University of California school system, informing them not to use certain statements that were deemed offensive. One of the statements they were advised against was “America is the land of opportunity,” because it assumes that everyone has an equal opportunity and ignores that race or gender can be a contributing factor to one’s life success. While it is commendable that colleges are being cognizant of students’ sensitivities and trying not to overstep boundaries, there is a point where shielding becomes excessive.

The purpose of trigger warnings, used in the late 1990s by feminist websites, was to warn people with post-traumatic stress disorders of potentially troubling content. The suggestion on college campuses today that literature should have warnings is not overindulging students. But when students want opportunities to forgo reading works like Chinua Achebe’s novel, “Things Fall Apart,” because it happens to include instances of racially charged violence, it becomes ridiculous.

Trigger warnings can be useful only if handled well, and supporters encourage their usage, saying those with past trauma have difficulty in reading assigned material with graphic content. However, this is not always the case. Many students defend the use of trigger warnings not because of PTSD or traumatic memories, but because they feel that a book having misogyny or depiction of racial violence discomforts them beyond tolerance, even if the book doesn’t necessarily condone it.

If anything, this attempt of shielding just hurts the people that it’s supposed to help. It creates an environment in college that is unlike the real world. Students will graduate and go into a world where unpleasant topics cannot be avoided and trigger warnings cannot be placed.

The college classroom should be seen as a place where all students feel welcome, but it should also be a place where freedom of speech should thrive. Instead of avoiding or dropping sensitive topics altogether, college students should instead use these incidents to create an intellectual course of discussion in their classes, where they can challenge the topics they are so against.