By Daniel Peters
June 24, 2016
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Australian university students are being given ‘trigger warnings’ before classes about sexual abuse and transgenderism in a bid to preserve their mental health.
At the start of lessons, lectures or subjects, academics are issuing warnings about sensitive or graphic content, giving students the opportunity to opt out if they feel confronted or uncomfortable.
University of Melbourne’s Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a lecturer on gender and sexuality, told The Age she has been using trigger warnings in classes for the past 13 years of her career.
‘It’s like television … you have a warning for everything from drug use to supernatural things, as a way to tell the audience that [they] may be disturbed by one of any number of topics,’ she said.
‘These students have grown up participating in politics through Tumblr and Instagram, and I feel that expressing ideas through sound bites and policing of other language, which is rampant online, has suddenly been translated into the classroom,’ Dr Rosewarne added.
According to the Herald Sun, Melbourne’s LaTrobe University Student Union has made it compulsory to provide warnings before talking about 57 separate potentially discomforting issues.
Those warning issues include ‘gore’, ‘chewing’, ‘slimy things’ and ‘food’ – on the basis they may ‘negatively alter (the) wellbeing’ of students.
Opponents of trigger warnings in universities complain the warnings limit educational growth and stop students from being challenged by new ideas.
Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at The Institute of Public Affairs, said he was worried Australian academics were feeling pressured to juggle the job of psychologist and educator.
‘Universities should be about exposing people to as many ideas as possible, even if they are challenging,’ he told The Age.