Task force to discuss ways to handle triggering class material

Lauren Grobe

Faculty, staff and students will be discussing strategies to address traumatic class material, such as sexual violence, at a task force meeting this Friday.

The Faculty Council approved the formation of the Task Force for Difficult Dialogues and Trauma-Informed Pedagogy last spring. The task force will meet for the first time this week, Faculty Council chair Brian Evans said. He said the need for the task force came from a student government resolution last April.

Trauma-informed pedagogy is a practice that involves understanding how someone may be impacted by trauma, French graduate student Sarah Le Pichon said.

“The idea behind trauma-informed pedagogy is to recognize the prevalence of trauma,” Le Pichon said. “In the classroom, that can mean implementing really small practices, so it’s not meant to be an overhaul of anyone’s teaching method.”


Le Pichon said using trauma-informed pedagogy strategies can help students succeed in the classroom and may help some students engage with difficult material.

“They (would know) that they could step back from it, if they needed to, and that the professor would understand so they wouldn’t be penalized,” Le Pichon said. “In the end, it helps students.”

However, she said this practice still faces some resistance, because there are many misconceptions surrounding the practice.

“One of the criticisms that we get a lot that’s just not at all supported by our research is the idea of coddling students,” Le Pichon said.

Le Pichon said traumatic experiences are common, and although trauma is difficult to define and quantify, about 94% of students have had a traumatic experience in their lifetime.

“We’re acknowledging that students can’t leave their experiences at the door when they walk into our classrooms,” Le Pichon said.

While the Faculty Council created the task force, students are also represented on the task force by three undergraduates and three graduate student representatives, according to the Faculty Council website.

“There are (six) student voting members on Faculty Council, and any of them can propose resolutions for Faculty Council as individuals like any other member,” Evans said.

Student Government vice president Amie Jean is one of the student representatives and said she wants to learn more about handling difficult content. 

“I hope to gain insight about the emotions tied to triggering information,” Jean said. 

Le Pichon said professors, such as classics lecturer Steve Lundy, implemented the trauma-informed pedagogy practices with success.

“He would collect information specifically on how the students experienced and felt about the trauma-informedm pedagogy,” Le Pichon said. “It’s very clear that students think these practices are important.”

Faculty development specialist Adria Battaglia said the Faculty Innovation Center awarded Le Pichon and Lundy a grant to form a learning community this semester to raise awareness about
trauma-informed pedagogy.

“This all has to do with avoiding traumatization and re-traumatization in our learning spaces,” Le Pichon said.

Other programs are available for staff and faculty, such as the Difficult Dialogues program founded in 2006 at the
Humanities Institute.

“We try to ensure that we are always amplifying and boosting the work of faculty and staff on this campus who are already so deeply engaged in the work,” Battaglia said.