News & Politics

College Professor Stops Teaching About Sexual Violence: Too Many Students 'Triggered'

A sociology professor at Ithaca College has stopped including sexual violence as part of the curriculum because too many students said they were “triggered” by the subject matter and it was “almost impossible to accommodate all of her students’ needs.”

As Hit and Run’s Robby Soave quips, “This triggers me” has become the new “The dog ate my homework.”

Rebecca Plante is an associate professor of sociology at Ithaca. She teaches Sociology of Sexualities. It was always her policy to provide trigger warnings for her students, she told The Ithacan.

“I had no way of knowing who in my class maybe had survived rape, had been subjected to some kind of sexual assault, who maybe had been subjected to something they had forgotten about,” Plante said.

As it turns out, a whole lot of students claimed to be trauma victims. Eventually, Plante discovered that so many students were opting not to complete coursework because it triggered them that there wasn’t a point to teaching the difficult stuff at all:

But Plante had not anticipated how many students would tell her they could not do much of the controversial coursework because of past trauma they had suffered. So, about five years ago she decided to stop teaching about sexual violence altogether because it became almost impossible for her to accommodate all of her students’ needs. Her class still discusses the “social construction of gender, violence, power and sexualities,” Plante said, but she does feel the absence of the controversial material is a disservice to the course.

Plante is one of many academics who increasingly find themselves walking on eggshells to avoid offending their students. Some law school professors have stopped teaching rape law due to complaints from students who claim the subject is traumatizing—even though educating students about this important topic should be more important than making everybody in class comfortable all of the time.

What is going to be the result of all this mollycoddling? I’m inclined to think that at least some students will eventually be forced to grow up once they are out on their own and need to make a living. The light bulb over their heads will eventually go off and they will become solid citizens — well, maybe not “solid.” Most of them will still be liberals, after all.

But for a majority, there is no hope. They will wander the earth for the rest of their days, constantly being startled at how the real world doesn’t give a damn if they are offended by something or someone. They will cower at home, unable to turn on the TV for fear that an image will appear that is counter to their political views.

If they work, they will carve out a safe space where co-workers of a particular race are unwelcome. If they’re lucky, they will have an understanding boss who will humor them, pat them on the head and give in to their silliness as much as possible.

If they marry, it will be to someone of similar sensibilities. And their children will grow up even more self-centered and scared of their own shadow.

No one has a right to be 100% comfortable in their surroundings. Part of being human is tolerating people, ideas, and subject matter that may upset you. Everyone is not going to see the world the same way.

Instead of sexual violence, the good professor should be teaching these snowflakes about humanity.