Uni students to be given 'trigger' warning over 'distressing' content

University of Reading lecturers are told to give students ‘trigger’ warning if classes contain ‘distressing’ content about classism, blood and pregnancy

  • Staff at University of Reading told to give ‘trigger’ warnings over class content
  • Tasks that trigger a warning include pregnancy, hetrosexism, classism and blood
  • But university insists that the alerts will not lead to a censorship of such topics 
  • It follows new guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commision (EHRC) 

Students at a UK university are to be given ‘trigger’ warnings over ‘distressing’ content in their classes.

Topics including pregnancy, hetrosexism and classism will spark a content warning from staff at the University of Reading.

The alerts, which also include warnings over content containing dissection and blood, are being issued over fears that such topics might trigger ‘unwelcome and distressing’ memories for students who have experienced trauma.

Other topics reportedly on the warning list include sexual assault, incest, animal cruelty, mental illness, racism, sexism and misogyny, and homophobia.

University chiefs say the trigger warnings will ‘remove the element of surprise’ by pre-warning students about sensitive content.

However, bosses insist that the warnings are to ‘engage’ students and that they ‘will not censor topics’.

Topics including pregnancy, hetrosexism and classism will spark a content warning from staff at the University of Reading (pictured)

In a letter the university warned staff: ”We are concerned students are aware of the risk that material used in their learning might trigger unwelcome and distressing memories.

‘Trigger warnings are warnings provided to alert students to sensitive content covered in their course. 

‘Warnings are not intended to censor teaching material or content. They are there to help students engage with the issue, not avoid them.’

The university adds that the trigger warnings will ‘allow students to make informed and conscious decisions about how they choose to access the content’. 

Meanwhile, university bosses say that the warnings will ‘also help lecturers to consider in advance how their content is framed to students’.

It says lecturers will then be able to make ‘any reasonable adjustments for students who may find the content to difficult to access’. 

The alerts, which also include warnings of death, dissection and blood, are being issued over fears that topics might trigger ‘unwelcome memories and distressing’ memories for students who have experienced trauma. Pregnancy (stock image of a pregnant woman) will also be a topic to spark a trigger warning

The full list includes 22 different topics. However, university chiefs say that the list is ‘not an exhaustive list’.

‘Care should be given to remain responsive to the needs of students, and to ensure assumptions are not made on behalf of students as to the nature of their individual needs,’ the letter adds.

The letter was sent out to staff and lecturers at the University of Reading following the issuing of guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The guidance was drawn up with support from the National Union of Students and the Home Office.

The full list of topics that will lead to a ‘trigger’ warning at the University of Reading 

Sexual Assault 

Abuse

Child abuse/paedophilia/

Incest 

Animal cruelty or animal death

Dissection

Self-harm and suicide

Eating disorders and body hatred

Violence

Pornographic content

Kidnapping and abduction

Death or dying

Pregnancy/Childbirth 

Miscarriages/Abortion

Blood

Mental illness and ableism

Racism and racial slurs

Sexism and misogyny 

Classism

Hateful language directed at religious groups (e.g., Islamophobia, antisemitism)

Transphobia and trans misogyny

Homophobia and heterosexism

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