An Idaho Legislative Committee Cuts $409,000 from BSU for ‘Social Justice Programs’ that Don’t Reflect Idaho Values

Idaho Legislative Committee has cut $409,000 from Boise State University. This comes after hardline Republicans pushed for an $18 Million dollar cut from higher education, specifically $17 Million from BSU. Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R), proposed the $18 Million dollar cut.

State Senator Carl Crabtree (R) who proposed the $409,000 cut said, “Social justice involvement has got support for BSU in the ditch with the legislature and with constituents. We’ve tried for over a year to have our voices heard by the university, and we have been largely unsuccessful, We are left with no other option.”

Many Conservatives say the cut didn’t go far enough. Rep. Ron Nate (R) called the number disappointing, he had voiced support for Giddings’s proposal of the $18 Million dollar cuts to higher education. Nate also said, $409,000 “is nowhere near close to sending the message.”

Boise State President Marlene Tromp said the decision will have “a real impact” on employees. Tromp took over BSU in 2019. According to Idaho Freedom Foundation, Tromp’s annual salary is close to the amount being cut from the BSU budget. IFF reports her salary is $425,000 annually, plus a $60,000 Housing allowance and a 9,200 car allowance.

Rep. Barbara Dee Ehardt (R) wrote a letter to Tromp urging her to change the course BSU was set upon by Interim President Martin Schimpf. Twenty-seven legislators also signed Ehardt’s letter. It appears that Tromp took no action in regards to the letter sent out by the legislators.

The letter opens with “I recently read a newsletter sent on June 4th, 2019, by BSU Interim President Martin Schimpf concerning Boise State’s latest diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. Though I know this letter was not sent by you personally, it was disconcerting for many reasons, primarily because Boise State University is an Idaho school and as such should reflect Idaho values. I have serious concerns regarding Schimpf’s approach. Moving forward, I ask that you consider a different path.

It continues, “Rather than championing academic excellence, Schimpf’s letter stated, “It is clear to me that students, faculty, and staff understand the importance of Boise State being a leader on inclusive excellence—not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is vital to maintaining our ability to serve our students in the future.

This drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture becomes divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students. These initiatives by nature highlight differences and suggest that certain groups are treated unequally now—and that BSU should redress these grievances. As Governor Brad Little has stated on numerous occasions: We need to do things the “Idaho way!” This means Idaho’s universities should always seek to treat all students fairly and equitably.

The following are some initiatives and goals mentioned that are antithetical to the Idaho way:
• Support for multicultural student events including Pow Wow, Rainbow Graduation, Black Graduation, Project Dream, etc. instead of helping all students;
• Six graduate fellowships for “underrepresented minority students” instead of merit-based awards;
• A gender-based violence community-coordinated response team, instead of letting the police handle the matter;
• A gender-based equity center proposal for funding to provide LGBTQIA+ focused sexual misconduct prevention and response programming;
• A system that spends valuable time assessing the proper use of names and pronouns versus educational pursuits that lead to a career;
• Revisions to the university’s search committee training curriculum to include a section on identifying and addressing implicit bias in hiring decisions;
• A graduate school preparation course only for underrepresented students rather than all students.

The letter continues and outlines how this direction drives the price of tuition up, “Tuition at Idaho universities is increasing at an alarming rate. Boise State is no exception, as its undergraduate tuition is slated to increase 4.9 percent for the upcoming year and has increased nearly 14 percent over the last three years (Fall 2016 to Fall 2019).”

This past session, the Legislature increased appropriation for all Idaho colleges and universities by more than $24 million, an increase of 4.8 percent. The legislative intent with this continuing appropriation has been, in large part, to help defray the costs of tuition. As legislators, our constituents always ask us about the rapidly increasing cost of college tuition.”

They rightly note that tuition hikes put degrees out of reach for the average Idaho student. The cost of college is a factor in some students dropping out. Yet instead of looking to assist our students,” Boise State is adding unnecessary costs.

The following are some of the listed programs that will drive up costs for Idaho students:
• Targeting DACA students to apply for Idaho’s Opportunity Scholarships, even though the state turned down 1,780 Idaho applicants in 2018;
• Six graduate fellowships for underrepresented minority students, which are awarded to faculty who successfully recruit these students;
• A new position in Student Affairs to support first-generation students of color;
• A new American Indian liaison position in Student Affairs;
• A new staffer in the provost’s office dedicated to diversity and inclusion;
• A new parents’ academy in the State Board of Education;
• $25,000 to be allocated to departments to expand their searches through additional media advertising to attract a more diverse pool of candidates;
• $30,000 from Student Affairs to support multicultural student events, including Pow Wow, Rainbow Graduation, Black Graduation, Project Dream;
• A program that forces Boise State students to financially support the food pantry, housing, emergency loans to students, and more—even as they struggle to pay for their own tuition!

“Besides the aforementioned programs which contribute to ever-increasing costs, the overriding theme of these initiatives is antithetical to the purpose of a public university in Idaho.

The letter concludes, “‘like many of my colleagues, I believe in higher education. However, 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. As legislators, we will seek and support academic excellence that does not pursue social or political agendas or incur additional costs. We really do believe in doing things ‘the Idaho way and we look forward to working with you.

It appears that the Idaho legislature has waited long enough for Tromp to hear their concerns and address them. It seems they are now ready to start sending a harder message to the college in an effort to have things handled at the school in ‘the Idaho way’.

Though the amount cut from BSU doesn’t seem like much, many conservatives are hopeful that some changes will start to be made at BSU when it comes to social justice programs.

Stay tuned to Media Right News.