Boise State hires law firm to investigate complaints over diversity course

A Boise State University ethics and diversity course remains on hold, as a prominent Boise legal firm investigates allegations that students were harassed over their personal views.

Boise State has hired the law firm of Hawley Troxell to investigate the complaints against University Foundations 200, university spokesman Mike Sharp said Monday.

Boise State last week suspended the UF 200 class, a three-credit graduate requirement. The decision came in the wake 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 an email Tuesday to colleagues.

Hawley Troxell has no set timeline to finish its investigation. “It just takes as long as it takes,” Sharp said.

But that means students in UF 200 this spring might wrap up the semester with an independent study project. Classes probably will not resume until the investigation is completed, Sharp said.

Spring semester ends April 30.

Money for outside counsel comes from an existing university line item to handle bias or discrimination complaints, Sharp said.

Students can choose from 52 course sections to complete UF 200, titled Foundations of Ethics and Diversity.” Section options range from censorship to the refugee crisis, from hip hop music and street art to “Harry Potter.”

The UF 200 controversy comes amid growing Statehouse pushback against Boise State. Conservative legislators have targeted Boise State for advancing what they consider a social-justice agenda. On Wednesday, the state Senate approved a higher education budget that cut $409,000 from Boise State’s bottom line, zeroing out social-justice programs.

The House will consider the budget in April, after the Legislature returns from a coronavirus-caused recess.


Kevin Richert

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 "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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