Big City Coffee files tort claim against Boise State

Saying Boise State University’s social agenda “has a hard edge when applied to people, businesses and ideas with which its proponents disagree,” a Boise coffee shop has filed a tort claim against the university, seeking damages in excess of $10 million.

Big City Coffee says Boise State administrators withheld information about a student backlash over the shop’s campus presence, Ryan Suppe of the Idaho Press reported Thursday. In the tort claim, filed Wednesday, Big City Coffee says administrators were “discussing the potential for controversy as early as July 27.”

According to the tort claim, Big City owner Sarah Fendley borrowed about $150,000 to open the campus location in September. Big City closed its campus coffee shop in October, after student groups complained about the shop’s support of law enforcement.

In the claim, Big City says it was forced off campus. In an October meeting, according to the claim, Boise State Chief of Staff Alicia Estey told shop owners, “I think it’s best we part ways.”

Boise State declined comment on the tort claim, a precursor to a potential civil suit. But university officials have maintained they did not force Big City off the campus.

“The owner of Big City Coffee requested to be let out of their contract early. We agreed to the owner’s request. At no time did the administration at Boise State ask Big City Coffee to leave campus,” the university said in February, in a written statement to the chairmen of the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Boise State’s “extreme social justice agenda” forms the backdrop to Big City’s departure, according to the tort claim. “This deep-seated institutional and individual bias is important context for the actions taken by BSU against Fendley and (Big City Coffee).”

The tort claim comes as conservative lawmakers have taken aim at social justice programs at Boise State. The current proposed higher education budget strips $409,000 of public funding from Boise State — an attempt to zero out social justice spending on campus. The budget passed the Senate last week; the House is scheduled take up the budget in April, when lawmakers return from an 18-day recess.

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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