BOISE — The crowd on the steps of Idaho’s Capitol had a clear message for lawmakers.
“Two, four, six, eight, protect inclusion at Boise State!” chanted the group of more than 250 students and community members.
On Saturday, students from Boise State University organized the rally in support of the university’s embattled diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Last week, 28 Idaho Republican legislators signed a letter urging new BSU President Marlene Tromp to distance herself from the initiatives. The letter criticized the university’s diversity efforts, which interim president Martin Schimpf outlined in a June letter to the university community.
Ryann Banks, a BSU sophomore who helped plan the event, used the rally to push back.
“We will speak for those who cannot speak today out of fear of funding insecurity,” Banks said.
Other students took turns sharing their own stories about diversity and inclusion in higher education, calling for more support of the very programs they say help students find their place in education.
Students also argued that taking care of one another and promoting representation and inclusion is the “Idaho Way” — a phrase GOP lawmakers used in the joint letter attacking the initiatives.
“We are reclaiming higher education for students that have been shut out for generations,” said Abby Barzee, one of the other event organizers. “We are reclaiming higher education for all of us. Everyone… Our marginalized communities continue to be a talking point when there should be no discussion.”
The student organizers are also coordinating messages to GOP lawmakers who signed the letter — and writing a letter of support and gratitude to Tromp.
The students started a petition asking for the Idaho representatives to rescind their letter and to participate in the same programs that they criticized in their original letter.
“I would like to invite all the legislators who signed the letter criticizing these programs to the events hosted by the BSU Multicultural Center,” said Banks. “Inclusion, community, and love are the Idaho Way.”