(UPDATED, 9:54 a.m. Friday, with additional reactions.)
Twenty-eight House Republicans — including eight of the 15 members of the House Education Committee — are urging new Boise State University President Marlene Tromp to distance herself from a variety of diversity, equality and inclusion efforts.
“I don’t view the current direction of Boise State to be in the tradition of what higher education has been, or should be, in Idaho,” Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said in the three-page letter, dated Tuesday. “As legislators, we will seek and support academic excellence that does not pursue social or political agendas or incur additional costs.”
The letter is the latest salvo over Boise State’s diversity efforts — which interim president Martin Schimpf outlined in a June letter to the university community. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative political group, criticized these efforts in a subsequent guest opinion.
Ehardt’s letter takes a similar tack, singling out several of the same programs.
She criticizes Boise State for encouraging undocumented immigrants covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to apply for state-funded Idaho Opportunity Scholarships. She also criticized Boise State for holding “Black Graduation” and “Rainbow Graduation” ceremonies, and for seeking to hire an American Indian liaison.
Tromp was traveling Thursday afternoon and was unavailable for comment. Her first day as Boise State president was July 1.
Co-signers of Ehardt’s letter include seven of her House Education colleagues: Judy Boyle of Midvale; Gayann DeMordaunt of Eagle; Bill Goesling of Moscow; Ron Mendive of Coeur d’Alene; Dorothy Moon of Stanley; Paul Shepherd of Riggins; and Tony Wisniewski of Post Falls. Co-signers also include House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star and Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks of Nampa, who serves on Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 education task force.
“(The Idaho Freedom Foundation) applauds the 28 House members who bravely spoke up today, and we join the chorus,” foundation vice president Fred Birnbaum said. “IFF urges President Tromp to avoid buying into the radical
left-wing agenda that has ruined the academic experience of millions of students on campuses across America.”
The two Democrats on the Senate Education Committee criticized the letter.
“We operate on a global playing field,” Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise said in a comment on Idaho Education News’ Facebook page. “A broad worldview that is not only diverse but also inclusive is critical. We must increase not limit access to quality education.”
“When we lift up the least among us we lift up everyone. We need to do more to fund education in Idaho,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking of Boise, a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “We all benefit when we invest resources that benefit all our children.”