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A Right to Creative Writing

The Barker Center houses the English Department.
The Barker Center houses the English Department. By Michael Gritzbach
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

For the past two years, the English Department has seen an uptick in enrollment numbers for its creative writing program, which offers workshops of up to 12 people on specific areas of creative writing. These workshops, varying in content from “Journalism in the Age of Trump” to “Narrative Science Journalism,” are available to undergraduates by application. Of the 477 students — a record number — who applied to the program this spring, around 60 percent were admitted into one of the also record-high 24 workshops on offer.

Pivotal to this increased capacity has been the program’s expansion to the fourth floor of Lamont Library, just recently renovated to accommodate more creative writing classes. These new spaces foster a needed sense of community and belonging for the creative writing program and its students. While the University's growth of the program is laudable, the competitive application process and the need to submit a writing sample still prevent students with less writing experience — those who stand to benefit the most from the program — from participating.

We believe that creative writing-based classes that emphasize a student's originality of thought, rather than their ability to learn and mimic an established academic style, are invaluable. Harvard preaches the benefits of its liberal arts education, yet its required General Education classes rarely engage students in any kind of creative writing. Increasing the opportunity for students grow in this capacity is essential in the pursuit of a well-rounded liberal arts education. More broadly, this Board has extolled the values of the humanities in the past; the expansion of the creative writing program represents an encouraging move to revitalize the humanities from their recent decline in prominence.

Even beyond their value for the liberal arts, these classes build vital skills for students pursuing careers in fields like journalism, screenwriting, novel writing, and more. Given the modern-day weaponization of rhetoric and the increasingly interdisciplinary bent of academic writing, knowledge of a wide array of writing styles is critical for thriving in different professions.

Unfortunately, only 60 percent of those who apply secure a spot in the program; this statistic leaves room for improvement. The use of writing samples to judge a person’s fitness for the writing program may leave students daunted and perhaps invalidated, while the most polished writers gain access to resources and individualized attention. To combat this danger, the University should continue expanding even further, offering workshops that are specifically targeted to writers at different experience levels. The English Department should continue making positive adjustments to the creative writing program to ensure that its benefits are available to all.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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