DYSTOPIA–In an effort to make sure that students do not encounter any words or ideas that might offend them, traumatize them, harm them, inform them, educate them, make them remember anything, or cause them to think, Dystopia College has adopted a new “universal trigger warning” and mandated that it appear on all course syllabi beginning in spring 2017.
The syllabus statement was devised by a task force co-chaired by Provost Eddina Field and the college’s legal counsel, Fgn Gocha Na. The task force included representative students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
The statement reads as follows: “This course may contain some content. Some of the content that it may or may not contain may or may not trigger responses in some students who are prone to respond to triggers. Responses that might or might not occur depending on the triggers that might or might not be triggered include anger, trauma, offense, confusion, brain activity and/or emotion. In extreme cases, students have been known to think and change their minds. Students who anticipate the possibility of being triggered by any of the content that this course might or might not contain are advised to withdraw from this section or course and substitute another course that the student anticipates will not trigger responses, with the caveat that a student may not avoid all courses in a particular discipline. For example, a student triggered by numbers could choose a different math class but could not avoid math altogether. Likewise, a student triggered by words should take STEM and Business Art History rather than STEM and Business Contemporary Literature. All students in this and all classes will be issued blindfolds and noise-blocking headphones to be employed when a trigger unexpectedly arises. Unfortunately, the college cannot prohibit professors from inserting content into their courses, but it will do its best to shield students from any of that content that might possibly trigger them to respond in some way in the unlikely event that they are present, awake, and listening when the content is introduced. Students hypersensitive to triggers should consider majoring in accounting and taking all their courses online. The college is also working to install flashing lights and audible signals on professor and student desks, tables, and workstations that class participants can activate before speaking to alert other members of the class that some unknown trigger could possibly be triggered and thus inadvertently trigger a response. Upon seeing or hearing the signal, a student who anticipates being triggered to respond is urged to exit the classroom immediately, or if that is not practical, to put on the blindfold and noise-canceling headphones. The college’s course-management system, Blackout, will automatically flag all announcements, assignments, and discussion-board posts with a ‘potential trigger’ warning. All assigned books, articles, etc., will carry a similar warning. Despite the many precautions that the college takes to avoid exposing students to potentially harmful words or thoughts or images, students are advised that a college classroom is a danger zone for students susceptible to response-triggering, and particularly at-risk students (the home-schooled, the members of mind-controlling cults, graduates of fundamentalist religious schools, etc.) might wish to consider avoiding college altogether.”
Field and Gocha said further revision of the statement might become necessary if any legal loopholes are discovered but they believe the inclusion of the statement on all syllabi and the college’s total compliance with it should at least establish “good faith” if a student prone to trigger response is still triggered to respond and chooses to respond “in a litigious manner.”
Field stressed that Dystopia College is “fully committed” to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all its students, even if that means depriving the vast majority of students of a decent education in an effort to ensure that “the three wackos don’t go postal on us.” Her comment triggered Gocha to respond, “She didn’t say that, and I will swear on a stack of sticky-notes that she didn’t. Just please don’t sue us; we’re bankrupt already.”
Asst. Prof. of Floral Design Timidia Rosewater said she welcomes the statement as an indication that the college wants “to keep everything pretty.”
Other faculty members surveyed were less positive:
Asst. Prof of English Owen Hornblower: “How the bloody fucking hell are we supposed to educate our students with a stupid-ass policy like that in place?”
Asst. Prof. of Psychology Signourney Froyt: “I hope I didn’t forget to pack my handgun this morning.”
Asst. Prof. of History B. K. Tracker: “Fuck that fucking shit. That fucking kind of fucking bullshit is exactly why we need a fucking union, damn it.”
Asst. Prof. of Physics Maureen “Mo-Mo” Motion: “My lecture on the physics of firearm ammunition trajectories will never survive that kind of administrative encroachment on academic freedom.”
Asst. Prof. of Interior Design Alessandra Bellacosa: “It is a stupid americano statement. It would make gli italiani laugh. No italiano could ever write a policy so stupid and ugly. Stupida! Brutta! Che cappella! In my country, everybody they trigger and respond. It is natural. It is la vita.”
A group of anonymously questioned students said the policy is unlikely to have much effect on them since they don’t actually read any of the policies on the syllabus anyway. “Everybody’s says pretty much the same thing–or at least I think it does,” said junior management major Verity (last name withheld). “That’s what all my friends and classmates tell me anyway. I’ve never actually read a syllabus myself, though, so I’m not totally sure.”
T. Allen Culpepper