This year, every candidate that ran for an executive board position on ASUSF Senate was unopposed. This means that the new ASUSF President won by default. The same goes for the Vice President of Business Administration, Vice President of Internal Affairs, Vice President of Public Relations, Vice President of Mission and Vice President of Sustainability. All of these candidates won simply because they filled out a form on time. It is no small victory either—senators on the executive board have more power, and earn more money (taken from the student activity fee that each undergraduate student is required to pay) than any other student leaders by far.
Earlier last week, the LA Times published an article, “Warning: College students this editorial may upset you,” about how the student Senate at UC Santa Barbara recently passed a resolution that calls for mandatory “trigger warnings” to be issued by professors to their students if an upcoming lecture, class discussion, activity and/or assignment might cause psychological or emotional distress. A “trigger warning” gets its name from the term “trauma trigger,” the latter being what psychologists and mental health professionals refer to as an experience that may evoke a traumatic event. “Trigger warnings” are not new on the Internet and in the social media sphere, but news of this resolution has been the onset of a nationwide debate over whether or not such resolutions are threatening academic freedom by censoring class material in an attempt to protect students’ sensitivities.
The goal of the UCSB resolution states in part that, “including trigger warnings is not a form of criticism or censorship of content.” Furthermore, “it does not restrict academic freedom but simply requests the respect and acknowledgement of the effect of triggering content on students with P.T.S.D., both diagnosed and undiagnosed.” The resolution also suggests a list of “triggers,” including “rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, suicide, graphic violence, pornography and graphic depictions of gore.”
What makes the UCSB resolution more controversial is the fact that if students do find course material to be distressing, professors will have to excuse the students from those lectures and assignments without a deduction in points from their grade. This aspect of the resolution is what is drawing criticism from anti-censorship advocates, who believe that “trigger warnings” will give students a concrete reason to skip class without reprimand. This also proves unfair for students who regularly attend class and are still held accountable for their attendance and completion of assignments, as well as further muddling the lines between what material is and is not appropriate to be introduced in the academic course to begin with.
Marc Blecher, a political science professor at Oberlin College, was featured in an article by the New Republic, in which he states that he believes Oberlin’s new “trigger warning” policy — meant to guide university faculty in avoiding subjects that could induce “triggers” relating to “heterosexism, cissexism, [and] ableism” — constitutes as academic censorship. He explained that the purpose of a liberal arts education is “to challenge students, to conduct open inquiry in classrooms, [and] to make students feel uncomfortable.” Blecher’s statement inspires a point: most students enroll in a course knowing a bit about the nature of material to be covered. This leaves sole discretion to the students in deciding whether or not they would like to take the course.
In addition, recent psychological and mental health research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania on P.T.S.D. (post-traumatic stress disorder) suggests that, for those who have experienced trauma, “triggers” can be unpredictable and difficult to understand. “Triggers” can arise from various different factors, including a particular taste or smell, a certain time or place, or specific colors or objects. In this sense, almost anything can be classified as a “trigger.”
The problem with a “trigger warning” resolution, like the one at UCSB, is not found in its intent or the attempt to validate individual experiences, but the sole fact that a “trigger” warning will not solve the core problems most commonly exhibited by individuals who have P.T.S.D. or other mental health issues, nor will it be fair to students who have not experienced traumatic events that allow them to cite a “trigger warning” as reason to miss class lectures or assignments. Instead, focus needs to be placed on strengthening the awareness and availability of campus psychology and mental health resources to help aid students in their recovery and healing process, and also for professors to provide supplemental assignments to accommodate students who cannot participate fully in their academic courses due to distressing material. Otherwise, “trigger warnings” are a threat to academic freedom.
This past week, the Foghorn released a special edition on April 1 with the hopes of highlighting issues in recent news through satire. The main intention of producing this issue was to publish an engaging collection of stories for the student body. A handful of articles in a few of our sections mocked homophobic laws and institutions, as well as USF’s administration’s obvious need to brandish a flag celebrating our diverse population on campus.
While we have received a lot of positive feedback and appreciation from students, professors and advisors, we recognize that not everyone was comfortable with how these issues were covered. We recognize that everyone’s feelings are valid, and understand that we upset students with our satire. Seeing as we are a paper meant to be a voice for the students at this university, this is of very serious concern to us. We apologize to those that were hurt by our content.
As a result, we hope that this response and commentary will lead to a productive, informative discourse. It is our desire to organize an open, mediated forum hosted by and for students, advisors and professors in order to create a mature and professional conversation around these issues.
We do want to clarify that no article was written with ill will or malice. As evidenced by our issues throughout this past academic year, we have always been supporters of the LGBTQ community and the diverse student body at USF, covering many topics and events.
Simply to clear any misconceptions in regards to the aims of our articles, the following are what we intend with our satire:
Our front page article, “Ukrainian Army Begins to Recruit LGBTQ Community as the Secret Weapon Against Russia”, and our page 6 article, “Chick-fil-A Comes to Campus”, were satirical pieces ridiculing oppressive institutions — the likes of Russia’s parliament and fast food company, Chick-fil-A. The butt of our jokes was not the LGBTQ community, but in fact, the anti-gay stances taken by both Russia and Chick-fil-A. Russia has been the target of much criticism due to its recent legislation banning the use of vocabulary in reference to the LGBTQ community and much more. In turn, our Chick-fil-A article meant to humorously relay how we had no doubt that our San Franciscan values would eventually rub off on Chick-fil-A if they ever set up camp in our cafeteria. The reappearance of the queer community in the issue was not purposeful, but merely coincidental.
Our page 3 article, “Student Pets Now Allowed in Dorms” was mocking USF’s administration and its obsessive need to “meet diversity quotas” and “increase numbers” rather than actually serve the needs of the enrolled students they boast of admitting. It is easy to admit a student, but as the educational demonstration, USF Without Their Quota, put on by MEChA de USF on March 27 stated as their mission: students of color are more than statistics and numbers; they deserve academic and financial resources that will ultimately serve their continuing success on campus.
Lastly, our page 8 article, “Dons to Switch Name to “Pink Fairy Armadillos” was a light-hearted attempt to challenge the branded masculinity of the USF athletics department. The pink fairy armadillo is a real animal, and can be found in the grasslands and plains of central Argentina. “Pink Fairy Armadillo” is its real, scientific name. We did not make it up; we thought it was a potentially adorable mascot. By choosing a small, obscure animal that would typically never be associated with sports, it acts as a symbol for the overemphasis on toughness and competition in sports, especially in USF’s conference where other teams have mascots like Bulldogs, Tigers and Lions.
Again, we would like to reiterate that the mission of our paper is to create and foster positive, intelligent discourse. We look forward to meeting both our supportive and our concerned readership soon, once we organize the logistics of our open forum. Of course, we welcome the submission of any letters and editorials to the Opinion section for publication. Our section editor’s email is listed below in the submission policy box.
Universities start to fund student gap years before they begin as freshman undergraduates
Education in the United States is a privilege that can be undervalued by many students here in the United States, especially those who transition from the high-stress and competitive environment that high school is to college, where they experience a newfound freedom and independence. We at the Foghorn believe that undergraduates would be more successful and well-rounded after their four years of college if they took a gap year, and we are not the only ones that believe so.
Conspiracy theories need to be treated as real news. How else can we really make any headway in national or international investigation? We at the Foghorn believe that this is a serious issue, but after taking a mental poll at USF, we found out that only 3 percent of the student population will actually care to read this staff editorial. The following are all the recent conspiracy theories we advocate for that we have thoroughly discussed in the office and totally believe there is some truth behind:
Madeline Vanden-Branden, Head-B*tch-in-Charge: “I believe that the only reason people have not found Big Foot yet is because he is hiding in Golden Gate Park right here in San Francisco! Residents here probably just assume he’s a hipster that doesn’t shave and discount any other theories. Keep an eye out, y’all!”
Allison Fazio, Poppycock Editor: “Being the optimist that I am, I have only believed the best of what might have happened to the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. You know what I think is the most plausible theory yet? Sarah Palin’s! Why is it not believable that the Flight 370 just flew directly into heaven? Have some faith!”
Alena Musso, Font Snob: “Bill Nye is deep in this greasy plan helping airlines and other auto companies buy out teleportation technology so that they can monopolize the business. You think with our current technological progress we have not achieved some sort of teleportation invention? This calls for some investigative journalism, you guys.”
Nureen Khadr, Conspiracy Editor: “Jon Stewart for the next president of Egypt! But no really, if this is true, I will be the first person in line to vote for him. People keep insinuating that Jon — yes, we are on a first name basis — is planning a Zionist takeover of Egypt through his collaboration with his Egyptian counterpart, Bassem Youssef. If it is him taking the lead on this, I want in!”
Danielle Maingot, Instagram Professional: “From living smack dab in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, crazy stuff has washed up on my island, Grand Bahama Island. We find old remains of pirate ships, a few submarines that did not survive the drug smuggle from Cuba, and even some skeletons! Compasses never work for me when I go fishing; my friends and I have to use the sun to navigate. There have been some close calls for me when I go out to sea. Strange phenomena is always happening on the islands. The Bermuda Triangle’s age old myth is the only explanation.”
Mia Orantia, Jabber Editor: “Tupac is very much alive. My cousin, twice removed, dropped out of college and left his fraternity to become a Tibetan monk. While he was in the mountains meditating, he met a fellow monk named Rukahs Cap II. Rukahs shared many great stories of his past life, where he wrote poems about California love and changes. Rukahs finally revealed that he was indeed Tupac, but left that life to become the Dalai Lama’s speechwriter.”
DISCLAIMER: This piece was printed as part of The Foghorn’s April Fool’s Day issue on April 1st, 2014. This article is intended to be satirical.
A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a bill that would restrict the sale of consumer goods on all city property. The bill, conceived and drafted by board member David Chiu, would ban the sale of plastic water bottles under 21 oz. at all public events and by food trucks that are regulated by the city. Although many city citizens and environmentalists are rallying behind this bill in support, it does appear to be deeply flawed. The bill will only forbid the sale and use of plastic water bottles, and not other kinds of plastic goods and packaging. This raises the question: Is the ban even worth it after all?