“The Subject Matter Should Be an Adequate Trigger Warning”: How and Why Criminology and Criminal Justice Faculty Use (and Don’t Use) Trigger Warnings

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Trigger warnings are written or oral notifications of course content meant to provide students advance notice of sensitive material that may produce adverse health responses and, therefore, inhibit academic performance. This study examined trigger warning use in an academic discipline that includes a substantial amount of graphic content regarding violence and victimization using survey data from criminal justice and criminology faculty (N = 791). Trigger warning use was widespread − 61.9% of faculty had used a trigger warning. They were largely used to allow students to prepare for upcoming material and because in the faculty’s judgment, the content warranted a trigger warning. Use was highest in Victimology courses, but trigger warnings were used in a wide array of courses. Most faculties had not changed anything in their teaching over concerns about potentially triggering material. Research is needed to see if trigger warnings are helpful to students in criminal justice and criminology courses.