Despite Fears About Trigger Warnings, Survey Suggests Few Faculty Are Forced To Use Them

Very few college professors are forced to use trigger warnings in class, according to an online survey of College Art Association and Modern Language Association members.

Out of 808 who responded, less than 1 percent said their college or university had adopted a trigger warning policy. Eighty-five percent said in the survey that students had never asked them to use trigger warnings, and 93 percent did not know of any student-initiated efforts at their school to require them in class.

Without a formal policy, 12 percent said they used trigger warnings regularly, while another 11 percent said they tried them out “several times” and 34 percent utilized warnings “once or twice.” Another 42 percent said they’ve never used a trigger warning.

The non-scientific questionnaire was developed with help from the National Coalition Against Censorship, and distributed using SurveyMonkey. The results were first presented at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors last week, and were subsequently provided to The Huffington Post.

The concept of trigger warnings has existed for a century, but became increasingly popular in blogs over the past decade. As more hyper-connected millennials have arrived on college campuses, some have asked for their use ahead of potentially disturbing and “re-traumatizing” content.

The issue attracted more attention last year as campuses like the University of California, Santa Barbara and Oberlin College in Ohio began considering policies for using trigger warnings.

Yet, the survey of faculty — which the organizations say is the only bit of data on the use of trigger warnings in academe — suggests a trigger warning policy for professors would actually be an anomaly.

Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, said they did the survey because so far, there were only anecdotal —> Read More