I grew up in the Moscow School District, my niece attends the University of Idaho, and I frequently visit my hometown. I enjoy following the community news regularly and was extremely disappointed to read about the letter endorsed by 28 state legislators, including Rep. Bill Goesling, in opposition to higher education diversity programs.
The statement in the letter suggesting that such programs are antithetical to the “Idaho way” is offensive and divisive. However, the letter makes an even stronger case for the programs they oppose. It highlights a serious lack of knowledge among some elected officials about marginalized students in higher education and the need for equitable programs. If over half of the representatives on the House Education Committee, including Rep. Goesling, do not value programs that promote equity, at least Idaho’s university leaders do.
There is a difference between equality and equity. Equality means treating everyone the same, regardless of needs or circumstances, while equity is providing everyone equal opportunity to succeed. Simply put, equity requires making accommodations so marginalized groups can fully access the privileges of the majority. Among others, marginalized groups can include people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks, students from low-income families, and nontraditional students; anyone not in the majority. Creating opportunities for marginalized students to connect builds community and a sense of belonging. It is important work and is important for recruiting future students.
I am surprised Rep. Goesling signed the letter, particularly because he served on the state board of education. His lack of commitment to an inclusive higher education system is disappointing. In my experience, inclusivity is a value the community of Moscow has embraced for a long time. It’s woven into our fabric. Moscow’s way is the “Idaho way” that should be reflected by our elected officials.