Building events are a truly fun and integral part of resident life on campus. Carter Christmas, Around Founders, and, more recently, Sundae Sundays are highlights of the semester for many students. However, there is a smaller group of students who often find these events distressing or dangerous.
It’s not something a lot of us think about, and fortunately so, but for some people particular themes and aspects of building events can be triggering. My very first year here I strolled through Carter Christmas, excited to experience the hall life on campus. Everything was going well until I reached Ghetto (come on, we all knew Ghetto would be the wild child).
I was surrounded by men and women dressed as hookers. Someone grabbed onto my shoulder from behind and whispered in my ear. In that moment my mind flashed back to a dirty street in Atlanta and a similar man with a much more nefarious purpose. I fled the hall in tears. As much as I would like to participate in Carter Christmas, I have never returned because I knew there was a possibility that something like that could happen again.
Last year I went through Sundae Sunday in Andreas. One of the halls started off promising with a theme of American Idol that quickly turned into American Horror Story, and a personal horror story for me. As our group was guided through the hall we shuffled into a dark room illuminated only by a pulsing strobe light. I have a neurological disorder that is triggered by strobe lights. Thankfully, a friend in front of me realized the danger and managed to cover my eyes in time and lead me out safely.
Had I been warned ahead of time about a strobe light being part of the display, I could have avoided the hall and there would have been no drama. Other halls that year also used balloons as decorations without warning students ahead of time of the potential to trigger latex allergies, some of which can be quite serious.
Recently, the student body enjoyed the wonders of Around Founders (and wasn’t Egypt fabulous?). As usual, I didn’t go through, but I had friends tell me of girls tied up and screaming. While the stunt had the desired effect of thoroughly creeping out and scaring some of the participants, one of my friends could barely get through the hall without breaking down in the middle of what was supposed to be a fun event. Previous years of Around Founders have featured excessive gore and people grabbing at passing students without warning (though these practices were banned in the most recent Around Founders rule revisions).
Many of the hall themes and building events have the potential to trigger bad memories and serve as painful reminders to students of traumatic events that they would rather forget. I know this isn’t the intent of any of the halls, but it’s an unfortunate truth of living in a fallen world. There are students on this campus who have been abused, assaulted, raped, been through horrific accidents, or have been forced to watch horrific actions.
These experiences, while in the past, often haunt the people who’ve gone through them and memories of those experiences can be triggered by sundry things. In some cases, an individual will be ignorant to a certain trigger until exposed to it. If a hall keeps their event/theme a secret or doesn’t warn students ahead of time that something on their hall is triggering, a student has no hope of avoiding bad memories.
I’m not asking that you stop using these themes and effects in your building events (because, let’s be honest, strobe lights are really cool and getting scared witless is half of the fun). What I am asking is that halls have some consideration for the experiences and health issues of some of the students who will be attending their events. Something as simple as a notice posted outside of the hall can save an individual a lot of pain and sorrow. I’m sure we can all find it in our hearts to spend the money to print a warning.