“We Have a Captive Audience”: Boston University to Require Students to Take Social Justice Writing Courses

Boston University recently made a new announcement that has rekindled concerns over the rising orthodoxy in our institutions of higher education. The University issued new guidelines  and courses for its mandatory writing program that will require all students to write papers with a “social justice emphasis” as a condition for graduation. The key faculty organizers celebrated the new policy and the hiring of non-white instructors as guaranteeing social justice results by making students a “captive audience” with no choice in the matter. The school’s announcement emphasizes that the effort is designed to use the mandatory writing requirement so that these courses will “never worry about enrollment.”  The poor choice of wording can be addressed with a public commitment to maintain an array of other choices for students in fulfilling their writing requirements.
Student will now have to choose among such choices as “Linguistic Justice…Who Cares?: Domestic Labor and the Commodification of Care,” “Asians Are People of Color: Exploring the Controversy and Identity Politics,” “Deconstructing Narratives: Stories of Race and Racism in American Cultural Memory” and “Writing Environmental Justice.”

Gwen Kordonowy, the Writing Program’s associate director, said that the problem in the past was that students had a choice and some did not want to be forced into writing for social justice issues. Instructors and classes could be avoided. Now, they have solved the problem by removing all choice.

She heralded the hiring of non-white faculty to teach the social justice courses, using the first-year requirement to “reach every student at BU.” With that, she explained, “we have a captive audience. We never worry about enrollment.”

Writing Program Director Sarah Hardy said that the “cluster hiring” of minority faculty and the mandatory course requirements are meant to finally end the “predominance of white faculty in academia” by limiting the choices of students.

The BU announcement includes a statement from instructor Swati Rani that she will be teaching students to apply the “language around anti-racism”  and emphasized that “all of my students are required to develop a voice of advocacy in their final papers and projects that are directly connected to their intersectional lives at BU.”

There is every reason to celebrate classes that add different perspectives and subjects to the curriculum. It is the mandatory element that is troubling if students will be required to write in favor of approved social justice causes.

What happens to students in this “captive audience” who do not support social justice causes? These are subjects that touch on deep religious, social, and political values in our society.

While many of us have objected to the orthodoxy and viewpoint intolerance on our campuses, there remains some element of choice at most schools that allows students to avoid such classes. The BU program raises the question of whether political orthodoxy among faculty becomes political indoctrination through mandatory graduation requirements.

It is certainly true that students are a captive audience in the sense of having to meet basic requirements for graduation. However, most universities have guaranteed a degree of intellectual and curricular diversity among their course offerings. Indeed, some like University of Chicago focused on the “core curriculum” to lay a uniform foundation in classic subject matters while allowing students to tailor their courses to their interests after the first-year.  The thrust was to teach analytical and writing skills separate from political or cultural viewpoints. BU seems to be erasing the distinction between skills and viewpoint development.

Rani explains that in her course “we call out performative wokeness culture by asking ourselves what solutions we have to problems of injustice.” What if a student does not believe that there is “linguistic injustice” or rejects the cited “problems of injustice” in these courses? What if they reject not just “performative” but any form of wokeness?

Once again, some of these courses seem very interesting and I expect would be a draw for many students. However, by making these courses mandatory, BU could be making viewpoint compliance a condition for graduation.

For some of us, it was the reference to students as captives to these courses that was the most jarring.

The university has an obligation, in my view, to assure students and faculty that students are not reduced to mere captives to a type of viewpoint indoctrination. That can be achieved by guaranteeing the students are not being graded on their ability to mouth the social justice priorities of instructors. While the announcement stressed that the mandatory requirement will guarantee enrollment in the courses, it should assure students that they will have other writing course options and will not be treated as a “captive audience.”

180 thoughts on ““We Have a Captive Audience”: Boston University to Require Students to Take Social Justice Writing Courses”

  1. Have a crap teacher? Have a crap cause? How do you save that teacher and/or cause? You make students “captive audience”. Then “We never worry about enrollment.”
    Ask yourselves students and parents, if it the subject material is irrelevant to your major, minor or interest, why should you be compelled to pay for and take a course?

    1. Ex Dem,
      I have commented in the past in order to cut costs of so-called higher education, they need to streamline course material to only classes that are relevant to the major.
      Cut out all the general education requirements aka liberal classes.
      Of course that would lead to the job losses of those who teach/indoctrinate classes like gender studies, DEI, CRT. But they have no real world value anyways so no real loss.
      Some would argue the idea of those general education requirements aka liberal classes was to graduate well rounded students. Hey, if you can cut $30-40k off your student debt of classes that are useless to your major, sounds like a good deal to me!

      1. @UpstateFarmer
        I see your point and personally experienced such reasoning from the “Some would argue” types. Such material MAY have a place in a general ‘liberal arts’ type of degree (but in more specific degrees?) but only if it can be demonstrated that it actually contributes to “well rounded students”.
        Of course, if one assumes that “well rounded” as a goal is really in play, opposing material in equally subjective courses should also be mandated. Do you see this approach mushrooming out of control?

        1. Ex Dem,
          In a word, yes.
          That is why a lot of this is really getting just plain dumb.
          And why more and more people are truly beginning to question the value of a college degree.
          I have mentioned in the past economist Charles H. Smith says we need to accredit the student, not the institution. We need system where a high school graduate can get a paid apprenticeship from a company, learn the trade/business, backed by comprehensive and cumulative testing and after a given period be give a degree/diploma/certificate. All without the indoctrination BS, superfluous classes and student debt.
          I can recall over a decade ago some companies were calling on the need for more education in STEM going back to high school or the US would find itself falling behind the rest of first world countries.
          Now we have gender studies and degrees in DEI.
          We have fallen.

          1. Look to Elon Musk and others to establish specialty educational institutions with STEM oriented and directed pathways. Curricula characteristic of liberal arts education in English arts music history languages will be moved back into the high schools at an AP level and be required for entry into STEM so as not to eschew the development of a well-rounded individual. The tail wagging the dog will hopefully persuade parents with children in primary and secondary education that systems which seek to level the playing field by bringing individuals up through lowering the bar not the way to go. Everyone gets a shot at the brass ring, with equal opportunity, and each according to its gifts. Those who can do should be encouraged and enhanced. Those who cannot should be remediated, supported and encouraged to attain what level of achievement their inherent capabilities make possible. In this issue, not ALL are created equal. Deal with it!

      2. Did you look at BU’s course offerings? Turley has misinformed. There is no requirement to take social justices courses. As a frequent commenter, you must know by now to verify the primary sources that Turley uses because he often misinforms. Look at BU’s writing course requirement offerings!

        1. Says the paid Dem operative. Go check on the Big Guy and see if he has wet his pampers, not that Jill GAF


          1. https://www.bu.edu/writingprogram/

            I have no idea what you just said, but this is pretty hard to refute. It does take basic reading comprehension to read the other 7 topics available for writing seminars.

            Not sure who the “Big Guy” is with respect to Boston University. I believe Joe Biden went to the University of Delaware and Syracuse for law school. Those have nothing to do with BU. But, sure, he is definitely relevant.

  2. If it is important for one to be made docile and submissive rather than intellectual and determined, Boston University may be yet another one worthy of the time, effort, and money of anyone who somehow believes forced exposure to particular viewpoints is social justice rather than an actual manifestation of social injustice.

    Social justice means everyone’s uniqueness is respected, protected, and promoted. It means everyone has access to opportunities and the resources necessary to their individuality and never to be held back by any manner of systemic barriers, prejudice, and discrimination. There isn’t one clear framework for what successful social justice looks like in practice, and those at Boston University responsible for its latest credo need to reconcile themselves with that truth.

    1. No, they are not being made docile and submissive. They are being exposed to a different point of view that they would never consider on their own. That is literally what education is. It’s not more “forced” than taking the other extra classes you need to meet the requirements of a degree. What this issue IS exposing is how whiny those who choose to wallow in ignorance are.

      Social justice means seeking equality under the law. Those who are still experiencing social injustice can’t make their point of view unless those who are dismissive of it or are ignorant of it are exposed to it in an educational setting by those who actually experience it. It’s adding to the knowledge one gets when leading at higher education institutions.

      “There isn’t one clear framework for what successful social justice looks like in practice, and those at Boston University responsible for its latest credo need to reconcile themselves with that truth.”

      There are successful examples all around of what social justice looks like. Gay marriage is one. The right to have state recognize it and apply all legal benefits that everyone else enjoys are now enjoyed by homosexual couples.

      The end of Jim Crow laws and subsequent injustices. At least the majority of them. Some are still unresolved due to continued racism and bigotry.

      What about the women’s right to vote? That was a social injustice that was corrected by constitutional amendment.

      There are plenty of examples. Just because ignorance reigns supreme in the minds of those who cannot see it does not mean it didn’t happen.

      1. its easy to see why gays block you on Grindr. You’re dull, dumb and have no balls. I should know since I am your ex girlfriend before you transitioned to WTF

      2. And another example of social justice mostly sought after only be individualists, which is one collectivist agitators conveniently overlook, is not to require people to advocate another’s social cause, or for that matter to advocate anything at all.

  3. “. . . mandatory writing program that will require all students to write papers with a ‘social justice emphasis’ as a condition for graduation.”

    Struggle sessions masquerading as education. How very Stalin and Mao.

    In the name of fidelity to honest language, please do not call them “universities.” Call them what they are: Indoctrination Centers.

    1. BU does not require students to take writing courses with a social justice focus…. It is unfortunately necessary to factcheck Professor Turley these days. This article is an irrefutable lie.

          1. Facts matter but you groomers hate facts

            Fact: the 2020 election was rigged
            Fact: the DOJ CIA FBI Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton organized a coup against Trump
            Fact: youre a paid dim troll

            go facts yourself, groomer

            1. Well said


              In the age of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, BU students are increasingly requesting classes about social justice, says Sarah Madsen Hardy, director of CAS’s Writing Program. The program responded this academic year with a new social justice emphasis, reinforcing existing courses with five new instructors teaching new classes, including Ward’s Linguistic Justice.

              Other departments teach classes about social justice, of course, but “we reach every student at BU” because of the University’s first-year writing requirement, Kordonowy says.

              “We have a captive audience,” Madsen Hardy says. “We never worry about enrollment.”

              1. Anonymous, your quote from the BU announcement states that they are REINFORCING existing courses with new classes, not REPLACING them.

                This is the point. Adding social justice courses to the course catalog does not mean ALL of the courses will have a social justice emphasis.

                If Georgetown law adds a new Turley taught course on Hunter Biden’s laptop, does that mean that all students will have to be indoctrinated by his Hunter Biden laptop messaging? NO. It just means there would be one more option for students to take. This is not that hard.

            2. Anonymous: Facts DO matter, so why do you lie so much? The 2020 election WAS NOT RIGGED. How many audits, forensic audits, recounts and re-recounts does it take to prove this FACT to you? WHERE are your facts? There was NEVER any “organized coup against Trump”, who was predicted to lose in 2016 and 2020 because most Americans see him for a flashy, braggadocious, chronic liar with malignant narcissism who had no useful skills to become the leader of the free world. He got into office in 2016 by cheating with the help of Russian hackers. THAT IS a proven fact.

      1. And yet those “writing” courses “with a social justice focus” are in fact: “struggle sessions masquerading as education.”

        And yet the broader fact is also true: BU is spreading that propagandistic garbage all over the university.

  4. Sounds like the perfect use of Chat GPT. “Write me a 1000-word essay promoting social justice.”

  5. Boston University can invent whatever woke rules they want. Students who believe the rules are stupid or ideological can go to another institution such as Hillsdale College. There they teach the liberal arts and not repressive woke indoctrination. Students who willingly choose the former are like lambs who carry the knife for their butcher.

    1. You, your kids or grandkids going to be manning those B17s?
      Why are you, your kids or gandkids not at the recruiting center now, enlisting in a combat MOS?
      I hear the Ukraine is taking people up into their 60s for their military.

    2. Catch 22

      1960s: title of a novel by Joseph Heller (1961), in which the main character feigns madness in order to avoid dangerous combat missions, but his desire to avoid them is taken to prove his sanity.

  6. BU’s announcement is consistent with announcements/dogmas/talking points of the Woke Left:
    Preach, evangelize, convert, but don’t expect them to walk their own talk.

    Per Wikipedia:

    Student body composition as of May 2, 2022
    Race and ethnicity Total
    White: 35%
    Foreign national: 21%
    Asian: 19%
    Hispanic: 12%
    Other: 9%
    Black: 4%

    Economic diversity
    Low-income: 17%
    Affluent: 83%

    TOTAL EXPENSES: $72,750 (Commuter) $86,363 (Resident) per academic year

    As it is, the Left will be gone from the Earth in a few generations. They are not marrying, are not having children, aborting and/or grooming the children they do have to being infertile, and their children have a higher suicide rate than any other demographic group, as the CDC data showed. The Left are eunuchs.

    1. Nothing new for BU. They were woke before it was cool. I refused a full scholarship there decades ago to attend BC at significantly higher cost. Haven’t regretted it for a moment.

    2. 𝐕𝐢𝐬𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔.𝐒. 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐲 𝐑𝐚𝐜𝐞
      By Iman Ghosh, December 28, 2020

      𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐔𝐒 𝐩𝐨𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐭𝐡 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫, 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐬 𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐰
      By William H. Frey, June 23, 2021

    3. Except BU’s announcement is not what Turley says. BU does not require writing courses with a social justice emphasis. Check the primary sources before posting.

  7. Jonathan says, “Once again, some of these courses seem very interesting and I expect would be a draw for many students.” Oh yes, we all agree that racism is everywhere and everyone of color is a victim. America is terrible, especially those flippin’ Caucasians! Blah, blah, blah, give me a break.

  8. As a postscript to my earlier comment, I noticed in the news this morning that Governor Newsom has blamed the Hollywood Florida gun fight between two groups of blacks on a law that Governor DeSantis signed which greatly eases the restrictions on concealed carry. Of course, the law does not go into effect until July. Governor Newsom’s ignorance aside, of more relevance to this post is Newsom’s statement: “Until our leaders have the courage to stop bowing down to the NRA and enact common sense gun safety this kind of senseless violence will continue.” It seems to me that the relevant “social justice” question is what kind of environment must a person be raised in to believe that it is ever acceptable to fire a gun into a group of people that includes very young children? “Senseless violence” seems euphemistic when describing such depraved conduct. At any rate, I think I can guess which of these ideas the Boston professors would pick.

  9. Could Congress create a new Department of Government Waste and Corruption and give it prosecutorial power to police the police? Employees could be given bonuses based upon money saved or recovered by their efforts.

    1. We dont need another level of federal bureaucracy. we just need to shut down those departments that are doing nothing. maybe Departments should be subject to Sunset Laws. Federal departments are self-perpetuating

  10. No they do not have a caprive audience. They only have willing accomplices to the disemination of false information and class hatred. Anyone with a functioning brain stem would avoid such indoctrination centers and seek their higher education at a school such as Hilldale or others of that ilk. If they, or their ignorant parents, want to be brainwashed then they are paying dearly for the privilege of allowing for it to happen.

  11. How is this any different than what went on in the Soviet Union? Well there is one difference; in America naïve parents voluntarily pay $75K per year to have their daughters and sons indoctrinated in Marxist ideology; in the USSE it was free!

    1. The tuition and exorbitant fees are the only differences. Everything else flows from the totalitarian ideology–left and right.

  12. Lazy and incompetent professors who can’t convince by logical argument must resort to “forced education camps” to get students to “see the revolutionary truth.” America is following Mao and Stalin, but as they say about history: the first time it’s tragedy, the second time it’s farce. US colleges today are in various stages of farce.

  13. Well, it’s never too late to enter the transfer portal, even for non-athletes. Also if this requirement was added after an individual had enrolled or was well on the way to graduating before this recent edition, I suppose one could make a case for breaking an implied contract and sue to be graduated under the older course manual. Or just leave. Maybe spread their wings and get a different perspective on education. You know the Big 10 and the SEC now have world class research universities, besides being the only ones that consistently play world class football. ( I understand this could be fighting words for some ) Even if you stay in Boston, I hear there all so other very good universities in the area.
    You know thought does not cease once you pass outside of the borders of Massachusetts. Radical I admit but there it is.

  14. Some of these courses might be interesting but I doubt it.

    Where I finished my academic “career” students were captives to an extent in that they had to take courses from certain topic groups in order to graduate. Making them well rounded is what we called it. Some of it was simply full employment for mediocrities. I usually advised my students toward certain courses and away from others — History of North American Indians, say, rather than something in women’s studies which tended toward thin scholarship and, well, anger. One of my advisees, inclined to enjoy confrontation, gave his womens’ studies teacher a book to read “Women Who Make the World Worse”.

    Question. What is the BU policy on machetes?

  15. Last night I was watching the NBA 2023 Playoff East Semifinals Game 7 (Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat).
    It struck me that the ‘audience’ in The Boston Garden was primarily White. That said, the notion occurred to me that the Venue could offer Ticket Sales based on Allotted Ethnic Diversity.

    That is Seat availability based on Spectator’s Ethnic dedication. i.e.: 15% White, 15% Black, 15% Hispanic, 15% Asian, x% of-X, Etc. …,
    Off course the Percentages would have to be made by a random selection method. The purpose is to Diversify the ‘Captive’ Audience.

    Events are a “captive audience” experience. It would be very interesting to see this applied to all sporting events, particularly Collegian Sports.

  16. Just another expression of the totalitarian essence of today’s Left. Coercion, bullying, intolerance — all in the name of “social justice.” And someone please ask Rani how many low-caste Indians she has hired to teach these courses, because asking an elite Asian to teach about social justice is like asking the KKK to teach classes on racism in America.

    1. I did also. It was like Sunday school on steroids. The history part was good however. The other I already knew.

    2. @CS: Your ‘Bible Studies’ course was a different type of advocacy relevant to the grounding of the school. BU has changed its core curriculum so as to fall in line and step with the national and global social justice movement which is insinuating itself into every corner of society and culture and serve as soldiers to that end.

  17. This is why as the owner of an executive recruiting firm we have become very selective over what universities our by candidates come from. We feel not only do we have a duty to protect our clients from ridiculous lawsuits but also a moral obligation to protect society in general by consigning these brainwashed graduates to the ranks of baristas for their career choices.

    1. CurrentSitGuy,
      Good on you for looking out for your clients.
      I know if I own a company, I too would be rather selective of what universities I would recruit from.

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