By Ray Dunaway

Despite some of the events of the past week, there is room for optimism when it comes to higher academics. We of course weighed in on the flap surrounding comments made by an adjunct professor at ECSU in which, during his creative writing course, he exhibited some creative writing himself (fantasy- or maybe science fiction) by warning his students what would happen should Republicans take control of the Senate. The Professor conjured up images of starving children, oldsters on the street, and the corpses of Polar Bears floating muzzle down in the Arctic Ocean, which computer models and Al Gore predict will be ice free by 2006.

Oops! I meant 2009.

Er, let’s make it 2012.

Okay 2020.

There! Fixed!

He was supported in an op-ed by a colleague at CCSU who allowed that while everything the Prof said was true, he might have supported his statements with facts. Such as:
Republicans opposed the Civil rights Act of the mid 60’s.

Oh heck, we went over this last week.  So let’s move on…

The new craze on campus is the precautions taken to avoid “triggers”. For example, the professor might warn the class that he or she is about to show images, or utter words, that may “trigger” a reaction in a psychologically vulnerable student. For example, a student may be dealing with obesity and needs to lose some poundage. Seeing visuals of a delicious Whopper during a marketing class focusing on effective advertising could send the student running to the nearest Burger King and where he would slam down two or three.

See? That 20 year old was “triggered”. He should have been warned.

But wait! There’s more! Some academics caution that a “trigger warning” can in itself trigger a negative reaction. To those making that argument, let me quote the question posed by Judge Haller in My Cousin Vinny; “Are you on drugs?”

I think we know the answer.

But here’s the case to be made for hope.

In response to the “trigger” craze, many College Professors are pushing back, after coming to the realization that their students, running up 6 figure debts in some cases, would be better served instructors stuck to teaching whatever the subject may be.

Which brings us to a modern day hero: Professor Laurie Essig, an associate professor at Vermont’s Middlebury College. During a class on eating disorders (part of her course on Sociology and Gender) Professor Essig projected photos of fashion models, and as you know, models are pretty far removed from reality. After the class, two students scolded Essig for failing to alert the class that she was about to display “triggers” which could negatively affect students suffering from eating disorders. Or even worse, the “trigger warning” may have been enough to set off a reaction of some sort. And that would be wrong of course. Maybe Professor Essig should have just cancelled class for the rest of the semester, lest a student suffer emotional distress.

The response from Professor Essig calls for a Profile In Academic Courage Award; “I’m treating college students like the adults they are, and institutions treat college students like medicalized children.”

Talk about a “trigger”.

I think I’m in love.


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