Guest Opinions

Boise State’s diversity agenda doesn’t work in the corporate world

Fred Birnbaum
Fred Birnbaum

In a recent commentary, former BSU President Bob Kustra attempted to deflect scrutiny from the university’s radical diversity agenda by comparing it to corporate diversity programs.

Kustra’s analogy misleads on two fronts, however. First, BSU’s agenda is so extreme, no business would replicate it, making the comparison a smokescreen. Second, while corporations do promote diversity, mandates forcing diversity are counterproductive, further undercutting Kustra’s point.

Kustra held up examples from several Idaho corporations, including Albertsons, Simplot, Micron, Idaho Power and Boise Cascade. Though I don’t represent any of these companies, I did work at Boise Cascade from 2000 to 2014. I agree with Kustra when he said the company has a stated commitment to “maintaining a diversified workforce by encouraging the hiring of minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and veterans.” But encouraging a diverse workforce is radically different from what BSU does.

Here is a partial list of the initiatives BSU’s Interim President Schimpf highlighted in a recent letter (http://bit.ly/BSUletter):

Invited illegal immigrants to apply for Opportunity Scholarships in fiscal year 2018 when nearly 1,800 qualified Idahoans were turned away.

Implied that BSU is not hiring the right people: “The university revised its search committee training curriculum to include a section on identifying and addressing implicit bias in hiring decisions.”

Implied that merit be subordinated to a diversity agenda: “Search pools now undergo statistical analysis for assessing the number of underrepresented candidates in the pool. When appropriate, search efforts are extended in order to increase the diversity of the candidate pool.”

Adopted an entirely new lexicon of terms to address students: “We’ve implemented an option in our student system that allows students to use their ‘preferred name’ instead of their legal name, and recently vetted the addition of new pronouns in the system with the faculty senate. In the fall we will develop training for faculty and staff on how to utilize the new pronouns.”

These are but a fraction of BSU’s long list of left-wing social justice initiatives.

Is Kustra suggesting that Idaho-based corporations would enact many policies in this radical playbook, such as openly encouraging illegal immigrants to apply for work, hiring candidates specifically based on minority status, or rewriting pronouns? While Kustra looks to corporate diversity commitments, they differ so much from BSU’s agenda as to be largely irrelevant.

In response to Schimpf’s letter, 28 Republican legislators wisely and with a measured tone suggested that the university focus on academic excellence, not categorize students in a divisive manner by race, ethnicity, and gender. They also called on the university to make itself more affordable.

Perhaps to cover his tracks, Kustra doesn’t mention tuition, but under his tenure, it increased 137%. This at a time when the consumer price index was up only 37%. Maybe Kustra will use his next column to blame the 28 legislators for the tuition increases.

Idaho is a welcoming state for new people and new businesses. After all, the Idaho Way is to treat everyone fairly, whether on campus or the job site. But when institutions artificially engineer inclusion, they drive people further apart.

Fred Birnbaum is vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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