‘Inclusion is not a partisan issue:’ College of Idaho issues pro-diversity statement

The College of Idaho has made its stance in a statewide debate crystal clear: The Yotes stand by inclusion and diversity.

In an opinion piece sent to Idaho Education News Friday, C of I co-presidents Jim Everett and Doug Brigham said the school has a responsibility “to create a culture of belonging in which all students can thrive.”

“The commitment to welcoming students from all walks of life is as alive and well today at the college as it was in 1891,” the statement says. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is beneficial for business.”

The statement from the College of Idaho, a Caldwell-based private institution, comes amidst growing tension over diversity and inclusion efforts on Idaho’s public campuses.

The debate escalated when 28 Idaho House Republicans asked Boise State University president Marlene Tromp to back off from longstanding university inclusion efforts. The author of that letter, Rep. Barbara Ehardt of Idaho Falls, says the letter was a response to a message from Tromp’s predecessor, Martin Schimpf, who praised BSU’s diversity and inclusion programs. The letter sparked a student rally, a pro-inclusion response from Democratic lawmakers in Idaho, and a postcard portraying Tromp and the State Board of Education as clowns.

The issue resurfaced at a town hall meeting in Twin Falls Wednesday, when House Majority Leader Mike Moyle said Republicans will likely introduce a bill to address their concerns about Boise State diversity programs. 

Moyle, who signed Ehardt’s letter, said his opposition to diversity programs does not make him a racist.

“I’ve got red cattle out there, I’ve got black cattle out there. … It doesn’t matter, they’re all cattle,” said Moyle, according to Ryan Blake, who first reported on the statement for the Twin Falls Times-News. “It’s really easy to call somebody a racist because they don’t like the way the words were written.”

The C of I’s letter to news outlets highlighted partnerships with businesses and philanthropists to help fund diversity and inclusion, celebrated the school’s international student population and doubled down on diversity initiatives.

“Inclusion is not a partisan issue,” the letter says. “Instead of forcing us to pick a side, diversity and inclusion is a win/win that should bring us all together.”

In a similar but lengthier letter, sent to C of I students and faculty, the presidents include a paragraph about the need to seek out a diverse student body.

“Recruiting students from historically disadvantaged communities along with traditional students is fundamentally fair and addresses historical inequities,” the letter says. “…Traditional students benefit enormously from exposure to diversity in all its forms and develop intercultural competencies and enriched perspective.”

In her July 12 response to Ehardt’s letter, Tromp called for “meaningful dialogue that underscores our common commitment to the well-being of our students and to the future of the state.” She said Boise State will continue to “foster and protect the open exchange of ideas in order to ensure a broad and deep educational experience.”

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