Diversity Summit dinner stimulates student conversation

Maddie Liotta, Staff writer

Students filled Larison Dining Hall on March 29 for the first event of the University’s first annual Diversity Summit. The event was facilitated by LA Posse 6 and began with a dinner during which students could converse freely. Student facilitators were scattered around the room in order to more effectively lead discussion.

Following the dinner, facilitators played an audio track that featured snippets of screams, vulgar language, and explosions as the room silently listened and searched for reactions. After the audio clip ended, students were asked if the sounds were “normal” or things they are “used to hearing” before being asked if they should have had a trigger warning prior to being exposed to the clip.

A particular discussion group noted that some of the more “common” contentions include the idea that men can’t be raped, and discussed the alarming frequency vulgar words such as “bitch,” “pussy,” and “slut” are uttered. The group pointed out that because these phrases are heard so often, people don’t react quite as strongly to them. This discussion group also categorized the effects of trigger warnings into two separate groups: those who are being targeted by hateful language and violence, and those who empathize with the targeted groups.

A trigger warning is defined as a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, or other media that alerts the reader or viewer that it contains potentially distressing material. When asked whether trigger warnings are a form of censorship, many people agreed that they are not unless an editor, publisher, or professor removes information they believe may be potentially distressing. Another topic of discussion was the word “coddling” and its various connotations. This same discussion group decided that trigger warnings aren’t coddling, but rather a way to help individuals brace themselves for certain types of material.

“Trigger warnings validate our experiences instead of minimizing them. Someone who uses the word ‘coddling’ probably doesn’t need a trigger warning, but they still reduce what the other person is feeling by using that word,” ClimBucknell Facilitator Cassie Stafford said.

Finally, the institution of University policies was brought into question: should the University implement a policy that places trigger warnings on everything the professor deems may be distressing? Or should it be assumed in the course description?

“Something that might trigger one person might not trigger another person—how do professors determine what is triggering and what isn’t?” Tooba Ali ’17 said.

The dinner ultimately created constructive student dialogue and collaboration.

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