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At Wednesday night’s Associated Students Senate meeting, senators passed a resolution to begin the process of instituting mandatory “trigger warnings” on class syllabi at UCSB and Chancellor Henry T. Yang made a surprise appearance.
“A Resolution to Mandate Warnings for Triggering Content in Academic Settings,” urges university officials to require professors who present content that may trigger the onset of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to warn the students ahead of time and refrain from docking points from those who opt out of attending class that day. The resolution also directs A.S. executives to bring the proposal to the attention of the UC Student Association board and the Academic Senate and asks that the office of the Student Advocate General appoint a staff member to devise a list of trigger warnings. Also at the meeting, Chancellor Yang appeared to deliver letters to each of the senators, in which he declared his determination to take action as a result of the sexual assaults that occurred over the weekend.
Among other promises, Yang stated there will be increased lighting around the UCSB lagoon and more Foot Patrol and Community Service Officers in Isla Vista, in addition to increased staff in the counseling and advocacy services.
Bailey Loverin, chief of staff for the Student Advocate General and student sponsor of the resolution, cited her personal experience sitting through triggering content as her reason for writing the resolution.
“Tonight I am coming to you…first as a student, second as a woman and third, as a survivor of sexual abuse,” Loverin said. “Two weeks ago, I sat in class watching a film screening and felt forced to watch two scenes in which the instance of sexual assault was insinuated and one in which an instance of rape was graphically depicted … there was no warning before this film screening … and it was incredibly difficult to sit through.”
Loverin said although she did not want to sit through the film, it was more difficult to walk out during the movie and draw attention to herself. She said the resolution was intended to aid students who had experienced trauma and retained symptoms of PTSD.
“[The resolution] recognizes that trigger warnings are symptoms of PTSD and UCSB Disabled Students Program recognizes PTSD as a disability,” Loverin said.
However, Loverin also said that the resolution is not asking for the removal or censorship of any triggering content, but rather better consideration of victims of sexual assault and PTSD.
“This is not meant to censor … but it really just asks that professors and other people on campus acknowledge the effects of triggering content on students with PTSD,” Loverin said.
Before the Senate eventually passed the resolution, On-Campus Senator Nikki Calderon said all of the senators should do everything in their power to ensure university officials are aware of the request and Off-Campus Senator Beatrice Contreras added another note of support.
“I’ve been in this kind of situation before — it sucks; we should pass it,” Contreras said.
Additionally, A.S. President Jonathan Abboud reported he will be meeting with California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and California State Assemblyman Das Williams, along with the co-chairs of UCSB Take Back the Night, to discuss introducing state legislation around sexual assault policy and prevention.