Prof includes 'crying clause' in syllabus

A professor at Grinnell College in Iowa has included what he calls a “crying clause” in the course syllabus for a fiction writing class.

The syllabus warns students that they may encounter sensitive subjects throughout the course of the class, but assures them that crying will be treated “like coughing or blowing your nose.”

An Iowa professor is making sure that students have a safe space to express their emotions in class by including a “crying clause” in his English course syllabus.

Grinnell College professor Dean Bakopoulos publicly announced Monday that the syllabus for his Fiction Writing Seminar course includes a section reassuring students that it is okay to cry in class.

“Yes, I do have a crying clause in my syllabus,” Backopolous tweeted, attaching a screenshot of the portion in question.

Bakopoulos’ “crying clause” warns students that while enrolled in the course they “will likely deal with work and subjects that conjure up high emotion,” adding that “laughter and tears are often par for the course.” The professor notes that he, himself, is “likely to get choked up during the discussion of certain work.”

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“You may also cry when you want to cry,” the syllabus reads.

“In this class, crying is like coughing or blowing your nose. Sometimes it must be done and it will not be remarked upon or laughed at!”

The professor then assures students that they may leave the classroom “at any point” to go to the restroom “or to compose yourself or to deal with various anxieties.” 

“Do not leave the class to check Twitter,” Bakapoulos adds. “Unless that helps you calm down.”

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Bakopoulos told Campus Reform that the clause “is a sort of tongue-in-cheek part of the syllabus,” adding “but the larger purpose behind it is that I believe great writers and poets usually write from places of grief or loss or fear.”

“For example, I don’t want my students to shy away from writing about their mother’s death from cancer or their experience with violent crime because they’re afraid they might lose their composure. I also don’t want my students to feel they have to represent their darkest experiences in a way that feels ‘woke’ or culturally acceptable or easy to digest,” Bakopoulos said. 

“So, as much as I am sure people want to make this into another example of ‘snowflakes on campus,’ (which is a strange thing for people to obsess over),  this is a pedagogical tool in a discipline that thrives on free speech and freedom of emotional expression. You can’t teach art without teaching students how to make something out of their emotional landscape and personal history,” he added. 

The effort to destigmatize crying in college is not a new one. 

Last year, the University of Utah made headlines when it erected a “Cry Closet” in the library for overwhelmed students during finals week. The closet had just enough room for one stressed-out student and was filled with stuffed animals.

After President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, students at the University of California, Irvine held a “group cry” in the name of expressing “solidarity” with “marginalized communities.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan