Boise State University

28 Idaho legislators sign letter asking Boise State to stop supporting diversity programs

Boise State University programs promoting diversity are under fire, after 28 state legislators, all House Republicans, urged incoming university president Marlene Tromp to abandon the university’s inclusion programs and initiatives they say are antithetical to the “Idaho way.”

“This drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture becomes divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students,” wrote Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, in the Tuesday letter. “These initiatives by nature highlight differences and suggest that certain groups are treated unequally now — and that BSU should redress these grievances.”

In the letter signed by eight of the 15 members of the House Education Committee, Ehardt gave examples of multicultural student events such as “Black Graduation” and “Rainbow Graduation” for LGBT students that should not be supported. She also said certain initiatives would drive up costs for Idaho students, like allowing students with DACA status to apply for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship and hiring an American Indian liaison.

House and Senate Democrats responded in their own letter Friday, asking Tromp to continue Boise State’s diversity initiatives.

“Traditionally, Idaho is a place where all people come to live a high-quality life,” wrote the Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus. “Colleges like Boise State University helps our citizens (present and future) achieve security for their families by ensuring equal access to world-class educational opportunities and by reducing obstacles for underserved communities. “

Tromp said although political divisions make conversations about diversity and inclusivity on college campuses difficult, she believed it was possible for all sides to have a meaningful dialogue about the well-being of Idaho’s students.

“I had previously scheduled a meeting with Representative Ehardt, and I look forward to hearing her concerns and ideas and to talking with her and others about Boise State’s mission to serve all students,” Tromp told the Idaho Statesman. “I am grateful for the genuine engagement of our legislators, as well as to people from across the state who have reached out to me to express support. Public universities must foster and protect the open exchange of ideas in order to ensure a broad and deep educational experience. Boise State is honored to carry forward this critical charge.”

Ehardt also expressed concern that Boise State’s list of diversity and inclusivity initiatives, outlined by interim university president Martin Schimpf in a June 4 letter, did not appear to address tuition affordability, “so our Idaho kids can afford to actually attend Boise State, an Idaho school.”

“Unfortunately, not one of these initiatives will help our Idaho students achieve their dreams of obtaining a degree and a career without an undue debt burden,” Ehardt wrote.

Ehardt wrote the following Boise State goals and initiatives were “antithetical to the Idaho way”:

  • Supporting multicultural students events “instead of helping all students”
  • Six graduate fellowships for underrepresented minority students
  • A gender-based violence community-coordinated response team, “instead of letting the police handle the matter”

  • A gender-based equity center proposal for funding to provide LGBTQIA+ focused sexual misconduct prevention and response programming
  • Assessing the proper use of names and requested pronouns of students
  • Adding implicit bias sections to hiring and search committee curriculum
  • A graduate school prep course specifically for students from underrepresented groups

Ehardt identified the following as initiatives she believed would drive up costs for Idaho students:

  • Targeting DACA students to apply for Idaho’s Opportunity Scholarships
  • Six graduate fellowships for underrepresented minority students
  • New Student Affairs position to support first-generation students of color
  • New American Indian liaison position in Student Affairs
  • New provost’s office position for diversity and inclusion
  • Parents’ academy in the State Board of Education
  • Allocating $25,000 to departments to advertise for a more diverse pool of candidates
  • Allocating $30,000 from Student Affairs to support multicultural student events
  • New program providing Boise State students with financial support for housing, food and emergency loans.

Two weeks ago, the Idaho Freedom Foundation published an article addressing the same points and concerns outlined in Ehardt’s letter. The article written by Wayne Hoffman also cited interim president Schimpf’s newsletter as evidence that Idaho’s colleges had “joined the legion of left-leaning institutions that are using their campuses as state-sponsored platforms for intolerance, division and victimhood.”

“Witness Boise State University’s interim president, Martin Schimpf, whose most recent newsletter offered up a buffet of braggadocio about the school’s reinforcement of the ‘otherization’ of students and staff,” Hoffman wrote in the June 14 article. “Schimpf noted the school’s expenditure of thousands of dollars for ‘Rainbow Graduation’ and ‘Black Graduation,’ new staff to aid ‘students of color’ and more. (FYI: ‘Black graduation’ isn’t ‘segregation’ because they don’t call it that. Instead, college elites call it ‘personalization’).”

On Thursday, the foundation issued a statement praising the “brave” House Republicans who signed Ehardt’s letter.

“Boise State University’s new president, Marlene Tromp, faces an important choice: Will BSU adopt the radical social justice agenda that has roiled so many campuses?” IFF Vice President Fred Birnbaum wrote in the statement. “Or will she prioritize academic excellence over progressive social engineering?”

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Investigative reporter Nicole Foy covers Latinos, agriculture and government accountability issues. She graduated from Biola University and previously worked for the Idaho Press and the Orange County Register. Her Hispanic affairs beat reporting won first place in the 2018 Associated Press regional awards. Ella habla español.