When I first bought the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn for my QU 301 class, I had no idea what it was about. I just knew it was mandatory for me to read it at some point during the semester.
I had heard great things about the book and I was excited to read it. But once my professor started assigning chapters to read, something dawned on me.
The book is about the oppression against women across the world and what people can do to help. It discusses a variety of topics, telling stories through the lives of women who have been victims of the sex trade, sexual assault and domestic violence. The book also discusses reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS and women’s healthcare.
While the book is an eye-opening read and definitely worth the purchase, I am concerned as to why this book was chosen for a mandatory course that all students have to take.
The Quinnipiac population is made up of mostly women. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. This is a staggering statistic that should be taken into consideration when choosing the material students must read in university curriculum courses.
There is no way to tell what a student has been through unless they tell you. It is unfair to expect all students to read this book when it could be a psychological trigger for them. A psychological trigger is an experience or situation that can cause flashbacks to trauma one has experienced.
If a student is a victim of a sexual assault, dating violence or any other type of trauma listed above, it could possibly mean that “Half the Sky,” while being a mandatory read for everyone who has to take QU 301, could become a psychological trigger for that student.
Now it is possible that if a student was struggling to read this book, that student could go to their professor and accommodations could be made. But it is unfair to expect the student, who has already been traumatized enough, to feel comfortable discussing something so personal with their QU 301 professor. I know if it were me, I would not feel comfortable telling my professor I was assaulted.
Even though “Half the Sky” is a great book and important for students to read, I don’t think it should be mandatory for a university required course. I think this book should only be required in a course such as women’s studies, where students have registered to learn more about the oppression of women and women’s rights.
If the book were only mandatory in an elective course, students who have been victims of these crimes could avoid the psychological trigger altogether. It is important the university consider this before making a book about these difficult topics mandatory for all students to read.