I keep rereading the letter written by Rep. Barbara Ehardt to Boise State University’s President Marlene Tromp. Looking over the many issues listed, there are two statements that resonate with me as a parent: “We need to do things the “Idaho way” and “Idaho’s universities should always seek to treat all students fairly and equitably.”
The “Idaho way” is a beautiful and endearing way to express love for this great state. To every individual who lives here, it can mean something uniquely different. To me, it means being surrounded by people who are kind and courteous. To Rep. Ehardt and the 28 legislators who signed the letter, I imagine it meant something different for each one of them. The beauty of doing things the “Idaho way” is that there is no right or wrong way.
I applaud Rep. Ehardt’s statement to “seek to treat all students fairly and equitably.” I hope that politicians and educators all across the state, work to create programs and laws that treat our kids fairly, from their first day of kindergarten to their last day of graduate school, regardless of their religious affiliation, sexual preference or political views.
Unfortunately, the rest of the letter implores President Tromp to rid the school of select diversity programs and celebrations. If the goal of Idaho’s educational system is to provide “academic excellence”, then celebrating and seeking diversity is essential.
When students and professors have similar life experiences, political views, religious affiliations or opinions, the opportunity to understand and discuss opposing viewpoints is greatly limited. Recruiting diverse professors is necessary to expand the educational experience for both the students and staff members alike.
Embracing and celebrating students with multicultural differences, should be a source of pride for BSU students, just like embracing and celebrating the success of BSU’s athletic programs. Do celebrations for athletic achievements (like the 2007 Fiesta Bowl) diminish the school’s ability to treat it’s non-athlete student fairly and equitably? I don’t think so.
The letter also complains of the schools initiatives to providing training to prevent LGBTQIA+ sexual misconduct. Isn’t this a good thing? As a parent, I want my children’s sexuality (straight or gay) to be protected and respected.
While I support Rep. Edhardt’s goal to encourage BSU’s new president to focus on the equal and fair treatment of students, I am afraid her suggested actions are counterintuitive.
My son is a sophomore at BSU. I hope his classes include a wide array of students, including first-generation students of color, American Indians, new parents, and underrepresented minority students. I hope he gets to know and interact with multiple LGBT students who gently teach the importance of using proper pronouns. I hope his education is enriched by diverse professors and students with differing viewpoints.
Most of all, I hope my son feels his education was enhanced by attending a school that chose to support diversity while simultaneously focusing on academic excellence “the Idaho way”.