Responding to Critical Events


The campus is not sealed off from the surrounding world. What that means is that our community feels—sometimes powerfully, sometimes painfully—the effects of critical local, national, and international events as much as anyone else does. Students may be deeply and positively engaged with those events. On the other hand, coverage of gun violence against marginalized communities may trigger deep pain for students who identify with those communities, and discussion of issues like sexual assault may well be traumatizing to the many students on our campus who have experienced assault or harassment. Other events may cause trauma as well: natural disasters, the border separation policy, hateful rhetoric against transgender people and other gender-based discrimination, and the list goes on.

As Georgetown professor Marcia Chatelain has written, coverage of news events can have a real impact on us and our students. Faculty are in a unique position to to help students access the resources and support they need. If we don’t seize those opportunities, students may assume that we don’t care. They may feel a jarring disconnect between their courses and the real world, between what they’re studying and their lived experience. Even if we’re not sure what to say, simply acknowledging painful events and leaving time to reflect on them can help students understand that they are supported by the community.

Faculty need support, too. Although each professor’s approach may differ depending on personality, discipline, class size, experience, or other factors, you may find some help below and in the sidebar menu, where we’ve compiled resources on how to broach these potentially difficult conversations and to make them productive and positive learning experiences. As you’ll see, some of these pages are tied to particular events—instances of hate-driven gun violence and sexual assault in the news, and the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville—while others are meant to apply across a range of situations. There are also plenty of teaching resources on a variety of pedagogical subjects on our Teaching Commons. Above all, please reach out to us to let us know if we can help in any further way.

General resources to help students cope with trauma