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Learning from the Boise State Hoax

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John K. Wilson / May 19, 2022


On March 16, 2021, Boise State University ordered the suspension of fifty-five classes enrolling more than 1,299 students in its required course, UF 200: Foundations of Ethics & Diversity. The mass suspension lasted for eight days, and it is one of the largest targeted suspensions of a course in the history of US higher education.

And it was all based on a lie told by a state legislator.

On May 19, 2021, a law firm hired by Boise State to investigate the case concluded that it was “unable to substantiate the alleged instance of a student being mistreated.” A year later, the right-wing attacks on diversity and racial justice that prompted the mass suspension at Boise State are growing even louder and more censorious across the country, along with the threat that administrators will engage in preemptive censorship to appease their overlords in the legislature. And Boise State officials are still convinced that this incredible act of repression was both necessary and justified. The state legislator who told the lie still has his identity protected by the Boise State administration, and he has never been named.

The instructor, who has never been publicly identified for fear of being targeted for harassment by the right, told me what happened last year, before either of us knew that her class was actually the source of the rumor: A conservative student in her class misunderstood something that the instructor said about inequality, and told the instructor that her ideas were stupid. Other students in the class jumped on the chat to write “you can’t call the instructor stupid” and “not cool.” The instructor defended the student who had called her ideas stupid, but that student was upset, started crying, and left the class early. The report noted, “Student 1 expressly stated that she did not feel like the instructor was disrespectful to her in any way and that the instructor checked in with Student 1 after class to make sure she was okay.”

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