Coffee controversy flares on Boise State campus

A local coffee shop will no longer operate on the Boise State University campus.

A spokesman for a conservative lobbying group says Big City Coffee was the victim of “cancel culture,” due to the owner’s vocal support for law enforcement. University officials say the vendor asked to be let out of its contract, and was never asked to leave campus.

Big City’s two-month tenure as a campus vendor ended this week, the Boise State Arbiter reported Wednesday. The news came after a Tuesday meeting of the university’s Inclusive Excellence Student Council. Members of this group and the Associated Students of Boise State University have voiced concerns about Big City since September, the Arbiter reported.

The backlash has centered on the coffee shop’s support of law enforcement, the Arbiter reported.

In a post Wednesday, Idaho Freedom Foundation spokesman Dustin Hurst said “woke social activists” have misunderstood and misrepresented shop owner Sarah Fendley’s views. Fendley’s fiancé, Kevin Holtry, is a former Boise police officer who was paralyzed after he was shot five times while on duty in November 2016.

“Shortly after the shop opened, left-wing activists in the BSU student government initiated a university-supported assault on the small business,” Hurst wrote.

In a statement issued Wednesday night and posted on the university’s Facebook page, Boise State acknowledged students held “a wide range of opinions” about Big City’s campus presence. The university said it honored the vendor’s request to terminate its contract.

“At no time did the administration ask Big City Coffee to compromise the owner’s First Amendment rights,” the university said in its statement. “Boise State was working with the owner to help find a successful resolution to the concerns regarding free speech on campus. Big City Coffee’s recent actions signal that the business has chosen to leave.”


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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