- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An op-ed by Columbia University students says that professors need to be mindful of including trigger warnings when teaching subjects like classical mythology.

Members of the school’s student Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board wrote in the school’s paper April 30 that the Roman poet Ovid was an example where professors need to think about offering trigger warnings.

“Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background,” the students wrote in the Columbia Daily Spectator.

The authors went on to cite a student who “did not feel safe” while reading Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

“As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored. […] Students need to feel safe in the classroom, and that requires a learning environment that recognizes the multiplicity of their identities,” the authors said.

Reason magazine, which reported on the story Tuesday, said: “One would hope that when approached privately about such a matter, a professor would be sensitive to the student’s concerns and offer alternative assignment options. But the fact that an occasional student might feel uncomfortable with certain material seems a strange reason to think no one should read and discuss it.”

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