Fever Dreams….

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay entitled “The Data Is In: Trigger Warnings Don’t Help,” Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder report that they “found no evidence that trigger warnings improve students’ mental health” (October 1st print issue).  

The authors’ claim may be true, but the data tell a much different story when we focus on faculty mental health.  

It turns out that trigger warnings are essential for professors’ well-being, as indicated by the results of a joint research project carried out at Gettysburg College and Cornell University.  According to Cornell Psychology Professor Melvin Côte d’Azur, there are certain trigger sentences and paragraphs that consistently produce Sartrean existential dread, Level 3 nausea, and loss of bladder and bowel control in college faculty, both tenured and non-tenured.  The Top Ten include:

— “You have been selected to serve on an interdisciplinary faculty task force charged with revising the University’s core curriculum.”

— “The Dean called; she wants to discuss something that happened in your class on Monday.  You might want to bring a lawyer.”

— “I’d like to introduce you to Todd and Meghan, the branding consultants who will be facilitating our discussion of what to do with the Philosophy major.”

— “As your President, I’m proud to announce that our institution is embarking on an exciting dual-degree program with Okefenokee Swamp Bible College on the Florida/Georgia border.  Anyone interested in teaching a raft-based course on Alligators in the Old Testament next spring?”

— “The Provost and CFO are here today to help us review the implications of Philosophy’s cost/revenue metrics for the department’s future.  Has everyone brought their lawyer?”

— “Stan, your name popped up on a student’s Facebook page yesterday.  You should probably take a look.”

— “Stan, there’s someone here from the Title IX office to see you.”

— “The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee will meet on Wednesday to consider the proposed Sociology minor in White Guilt.  Father O’Shaughnessy will be available to hear confessions after the vote.  All faiths welcome!”

— “An all-day faculty training session on “Monitoring Your Public Utterances” will be held this Friday in the Forklift Annex of Spackle Auditorium.  A lunch consisting of locally sourced tofu squares, turnip smoothies, and unpeeled eggplant crumble will be provided, along with a communal burlap napkin.” 

— “Thanks for seeing me today, Professor.  The Department Chair said I could enroll in your Calculus 904 course this semester even though I haven’t taken any of the prerequisites.  I need 3 more Math credits in order to graduate in January, and your class was the only one that wasn’t filled.  Is there a Billie Eilish video I could watch that would help me catch up?  I have to get at least a B+ in your course to get my Bachelor’s degree in Craft Brewing.”

Students aren’t the only ones who experience terror.