Presume resilience

Joanne Jacobs:

Alex Small, a physics and astronomy professor at Cal State Poly, Pomona, explains why he didn’t put a trigger warning on an Applied Optics assignment involving technologies for coronavirus testing.

A colleague warned students might be distressed by thinking about coronavirus. His students were fine with it.

Increasingly, professors are told their students are fragile, writes Small.

Both in my department and beyond, a certain segment of the professoriate seems to have begun microscopically examining nearly every aspect of daily academic life in hopes of rooting out assignments, events, or announcements that might cause unwitting harm, and scolding the rest of us about the allegedly substantial burden of trauma carried by the typical student.

Small sees his students as resilient. When he teaches biomedicine, students “thank me for teaching topics relevant to their relatives’ diseases. They find it empowering to learn applied science rather than face disease passively.”

That tracks with his understanding of expert opinion on trauma: Most “trauma survivors do not experience long-term symptoms such as triggers, and those who do need therapy, not avoidance and warnings.”