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Idaho lawmakers call on Boise State to ditch segregation by race, sexual orientation

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Wasted spending makes college less affordable for Idaho students

Boise State University funds separate graduation celebrations by race and sexual orientation, an example of its purported diversity and inclusion. Some state lawmakers are not fans.

Twenty-eight House Republicans asked the taxpayer-funded institution to ditch “divisive and exclusionary” programs such as “Black Graduation” and “Rainbow Graduation” that separate and segregate students, the Idaho Statesman reports.

They want to strike while the presidential iron is hot. Marlene Tromp joined the university July 1 from the University of California-Santa Cruz, where she served as provost, following the interim appointment of Martin Schimpf for the prior academic year.

The lawmakers take issue with multiple Boise State programs that treat students differently based on their race, ethnicity or “underrepresented” status at the university. They mention graduate fellowships and a grad school prep course for underrepresented minorities, as well as financial support for multicultural student events such as the black and LGBT graduation celebrations.

“These initiatives by nature highlight differences and suggest that certain groups are treated unequally now — and that BSU should redress these grievances,” Rep. Barbara Ehardt wrote for the lawmakers last week. The letter was also signed by more than half of the House Education Committee membership.

MORE: Report finds nearly 200 colleges encourage, facilitate racial segregation

It was prompted by Schimpf’s June 4 newsletter that championed “inclusive excellence” over “academic excellence,” which was “disconcerting” because its priorities did not “reflect Idaho values,” Ehardt wrote in the letter, which was shared by Idaho Ed News. (The Statesman did not post it despite being the largest newspaper in Idaho.)

In addition, Republican lawmakers object to the usurpation of police by a “gender-based violence community-coordinated response team,” spending “valuable time assessing the proper use of names and pronouns versus educational pursuits that lead to a career,” and implicit-bias considerations in hiring for the search committee curricula.

They portrayed the spending on these diversity and inclusion programs as an impediment to affordability for Idaho students. Other questionable uses of taxpayer money: promoting scholarships to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students (“the state turned down 1,780 Idaho applicants in 2018”), new diversity-focused administrative positions, and special advertising budgets for departments to draw in a less white and male pool of candidates.

Ehardt seemed especially miffed about mandatory redistribution among Boise State students. She criticized a program that forces them to “financially support the food pantry, housing, emergency loans to students, and more—even as they struggle to pay for their own tuition!”

Tromp ignored the specific programs and proposals highlighted by the lawmakers’ letter. Instead, she told the Statesman she looked forward to hearing Ehardt’s “concerns and ideas” in person “and to talking with her and others about Boise State’s mission to serve all students.”

Schimpf’s June 4 newsletter was also criticized last month by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which said the university “promote[s] victimhood” through its diversity and inclusion programs.

Ehardt Letter by Sami on Scribd

A spokesperson for the university told The College Fix Thursday that the “graduation” celebrations weren’t official commencement ceremonies, which “celebrate and honor all students from all majors and all backgrounds” each fall and spring.

These celebrations “bring smaller groups together to mark their shared experiences” and go beyond events for black and LGBT students. They also include events specifically for ROTC students, first-generation college students and students by faith tradition, said Greg Hahn, associate vice president for communications and marketing.

The separate celebrations are “supported by the university,” he said. Asked by The Fix what that meant, Hahn wrote in an email Saturday that they all receive funding from the university – potentially via mandatory student fees – but go through different programs:

But to take one example – the Afro-Black Student Alliance (which is a student group like college dems, college republicans, etc.) teams up with the Black Alumni Chapter of the Boise State Alumni Association (which is a non-profit separate from Boise State, like all alumni associations) to host a celebration for students who have been involved with that group. Boise State’s student affairs division, which offers small financial supports to student efforts throughout the year, contributed $517 to that event (in context – our overall budget is more than $500 million). All of those students (like our ROTC students, first-generation college grads, nursing or social work students) attend the main university commencement ceremonies, but also have an additional gathering to celebrate with their friends and colleagues.

So a “university-supported” event would be a celebration that gets some money (from student fees often, which students have a voice in setting and dictating) or other sources of local revenue). Boise State gets less from the state per student that covers the cost of the classroom work, so anything outside of that (athletics, veterans services, other student support) all comes from outside that 17 percent or so of our budget.

Read the Statesman article and letter from Republican lawmakers.

UPDATE: The Fix added more portions of the Republican lawmakers’ letter after this post was published, having found a copy that the Statesman did not share. Boise State also reached out to clarify the nature of the so-called graduation celebrations. Its spokesperson’s comments, separate from the official generic comment the president gave to the media, have been added.

MORE: Boise State gives in following pro-life discrimination lawsuit

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