Amidst student complaints, Boise State suspends ethics and diversity course

Boise State University suspended its University Foundations 200 course, amidst allegations that students were harassed because of their personal views.

“We have been made aware of a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values,” President Marlene Tromp and Interim Provost Tony Roark said in a Tuesday email to colleagues. “This is never acceptable; it is not what Boise State stands for, and we will not tolerate this behavior.”

The course suspension is effective Tuesday.

In a separate email Tuesday, Boise State spokesman Mike Sharp offered no specific details about the allegations.

UF 200 is a three-credit graduation requirement at Boise State, and students can choose from 52 course sections to complete the requirement.

“We encourage students to select courses consciously, just as they would in any other part of their curriculum,” Sharp said.

Under the heading “UF 200: Foundations of Ethics and Diversity,” a Boise State website lists a series of section options, in topics ranging from censorship to the refugee crisis, from hip hop music and street art to “Harry Potter.” On Tuesday, Sharp mentioned another possibility — a section titled “God and the Good Life.” But later, Sharp said the course actually was offered as recently as last fall in a separate course track, University Foundations 100, and isn’t offered now.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation — a conservative group that has long criticized what it labels a social justice agenda at Boise State — tweeted Tuesday about the UF 200 suspension.

“This is huge, given that it’s happening just before the Senate floor vote on the higher ed budget.”

Earlier this month, legislative budget-writers shifted $409,000 in the higher ed budget from Boise State to Lewis-Clark State College, calling the cut an attempt to rein in social justice programs at the state’s largest university.

The university will develop faculty training sessions “on fostering learning environments characterized by mutual respect and addressing bias in the classroom,” Tromp and Roark wrote. While students have several avenues to report bias, UF 200 students will also receive a midterm course evaluation from the university.

“In conjunction with academic leadership, we will determine next steps over the next week to ensure that everyone is still able to complete the course, and we will communicate with all students in these classes,” Tromp and Roark wrote.

More coverage of the story from James Dawson of Boise State Public Radio.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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