IDAHO FALLS — A group of 28 Idaho Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to Boise State University criticizing the school’s efforts to address gender-based violence, aid underrepresented minority students and to avoid bias in hiring decisions because the lawmakers say those and other programs increase tuition costs and go against the “Idaho way.”
The Post Register reported the letter was written by Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt to newly appointed Boise State University President Marlene Tromp on July 9. Dozens of other Republican state lawmakers signed it, including Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star, Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks of Nampa, Rep. Brent Crane of Nampa, Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale and Rep. Bill Goesling of Moscow.
The lawmakers called the school’s efforts to create inclusivity, diversity and equality “disconcerting.” They said the programs result in segregation because they divide people into groups, they add unnecessary costs and BSU officials should focus on academic excellence.
BSU spokesman Greg Hahn said he was not able to immediately reach Tromp for a response.
In the letter, the lawmakers said they took issue with a newsletter sent out by BSU Interim President Martin Schimpf on the school’s diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives.
“Though I know this letter was not sent by you personally, it was disconcerting for many reasons, primarily because Boise State University is an Idaho school and as such should reflect Idaho values,” Ehardt wrote, calling the programs “antithetical to the Idaho way.”
Among the programs the lawmakers took issue with:
-- Support for multicultural student events, including a pow wow event, graduation events for black students, Project Dream and others.
-- Graduate school preparation courses and six graduate fellowships for “underrepresented minority students.”
-- Programs to respond to gender-based violence and efforts to create a sexual misconduct prevention and response student for gay, lesbian and transgender students.
-- Efforts to refer to people by their chosen names and pronouns.
-- Various staff positions to support first-generation students of color and American Indian students.
-- Training on how to reduce implicit bias in hiring decisions.
The lawmakers said police should handle incidents of violence, money shouldn’t be spent for programs targeting just one group of students, and that students shouldn’t be expected to fund the programs through their tuition.
In response, all of Idaho’s Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter of their own to Tromp, lauding the diversity and inclusion programs.
“Idaho’s higher education institutions create welcoming environments to serve students from diverse backgrounds who are striving for a better life and more opportunity,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in their letter. “This is the ‘Idaho way.’ ”
The Democratic lawmakers said they would work to end the “systemic, long-term defunding of higher education.”
“After years of substantially underfunding higher education’s budget, our colleagues are now telling you what programs you should and should not offer,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote.