“Idaho taxpayer ticket price: $425,000 and sacrificial children,” the postcard reads, in an apparent reference to Tromp’s annual salary as president.
The postcards are the latest chapter in a public debate — and an increasingly polarized debate — over programs geared to support students of color and LGBTQ students. The programs far predate Tromp’s three weeks at Boise State, but the debate has overshadowed her arrival as president of the state’s largest university.
The diversity debate has already divided lawmakers. Twenty-eight House Republicans have urged Tromp to disavow programs they call “divisive and inclusionary.” The Legislature’s 21 Democrats have urged Tromp to stay the course, maintaining a safe and welcoming campus for all students. About 250 people attended a student-led rally at the Statehouse Saturday to show support for the programs.
The postcard says the programs foster an “alt-gender-cult center for LBGTQ creep clowns” and will provide “scholarships for illegal aliens.” The latter is an apparent reference to a June letter from Tromp’s predecessor, interim president Martin Schimpf. In the letter, Schmipf encouraged so-called “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — to apply for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship.
Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, was among the lawmakers who received the postcard Monday morning. She called the postcard “cowardly” and “repulsive.”
“These diversity programs serve a really important purpose for historically disadvantaged students,” Jordan said in an interview.
Jordan said she first heard about the postcard through a text from Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, a fellow Boise Democrat, who also received it in the mail Monday.
“I would say it was childlike, if it wasn’t so incendiary,” Buckner-Webb told Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman. “That kind of rhetoric can inflame communities.”
Postmarked Spokane, Wash., the postcard is unsigned, listing only infocomms.org as its author. That site links to an organization called Infowars Army, which calls itself “a peaceful, lawful and legal citizen activism operation.”
Infowars Army describes itself as “united in patriotism and intellectualism, free from the treachery of superficial identity-based messaging, faux-liberalism, and fake news.”
North Idaho freelance illustrator and artist Daniel Brannan, created the postcard; on his Facebook page, he called it a “recent commissioned cartoon.” Brannan also is Kootenai County chair of the Constitution Party of Idaho, Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported Monday.
“As Dr. Tromp said last week, she believes Idaho can have a meaningful dialogue that underscores our common commitment to the well-being of our students and to the future of the state,” Boise State spokesman Greg Hahn said Wednesday afternoon. “She has already begun speaking to the legislators who voiced their concerns with diversity and inclusion programing at Boise State and elsewhere, and is committed to keeping that conversation moving forward. We believe that open, honest and compassionate dialogue is the best way to address important issues.”
The postcard also lampooned State Board of Education members, drawing a sharp rebuke from board president Debbie Critchfield.
“I wish that as much time and energy as went in to the creation and distribution of the postcard was used to actually learn the facts,” she said in a statement. “The errors should be evident from first glance, considering we are an eight-member board. Furthermore, how ridiculous to criticize President Tromp, who has worked in our state for a sum total of 22 days. The postcard is a distraction and waste of time for those of us actually working on positive educational outcomes.”
The postcard also depicts state superintendent Sherri Ybarra, who serves on the State Board. She had no comment.
Gov. Brad Little — who appoints the State Board and is looking to fill two board vacancies — also had no comment. “Gov. Little is traveling today and staff has not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with him,” spokeswoman Marissa Morrison said.
But while Ybarra and Little, both Republicans, were silent on Monday’s developments, legislative Democrats said the postcards sought only to sow division and hostility.
“We do not believe that the success of our state is a laughing matter,” the Democrats said. “We sincerely hope that our Republican colleagues will stand with us against this hateful rhetoric and work with us to develop real solutions for our students.”
Jordan said she has reached out to Little’s office, and she hopes elected officials decry the mailing — regardless of their party. From there, she hopes policymakers can focus on substantive issues, such as college access and affordability.
“That is the difference between decent public discourse and this junk,” she said.