Idaho lawmakers push to defund Boise State programs that push 'extremist ideologies'

Idaho state lawmakers have proposed to cut more than $400,000 from Boise State University.

The lawmakers cited the school's "extremist ideologies such as those tied to social justice, racism, Marxism, socialism, or communism."

Republican lawmakers in Idaho proposed slashing $409,000 from Boise State University’s diversity initiative budget. The action continues their campaign against social justice initiatives that have become common at American universities. 

Discussing the issue at a budget meeting on March 3, Rep. Pricilla Giddings said, “We do not want to appropriate funds, we don’t want funds expended for courses, programs, services or trainings that confer support for extremist ideologies such as those tied to social justice, racism, Marxism, socialism, or communism.”

One concern of lawmakers is that some Boise State programs described as promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion segregate students by race.

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The university’s planned Black Graduation, for example, was similar to events previously covered by Campus Reform and tracked in Separate but Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in American Higher Education, a 2019 report by the National Association of Scholars. 

“Graduation’s for everybody, not a specific group,” said State House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. 

Conservative lawmakers first aired their concerns about Boise State’s diversity initiatives in a July 2019 letter, saying its “drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture becomes divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students.” 

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Another point of contention is whether the university used taxpayer money to fund other identity-based programs, including Rainbow Graduation for LBGTQ students, Pow Wow, and graduate fellowships set aside for minority students. According to the Idaho Press, Black Graduation, Pow Wow, and Rainbow Graduation were paid for with corporate donations.

Speaking to reporters at KTVB7 this week, Boise State President Marlene Tromp attributed the episode to a misunderstanding. 

“I think that there has been a misperception that there is only a certain set of ideas that are being taught at Boise State,” she said, “in-fact Boise State is this rich and complex environment with so many different ideas and I think they would be delighted by many of the things they saw, they would disagree with others, and they would see our students and faculty and staff in dialogue about those ideas.” 

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Although the proposed $409,000 cut to Boise State’s budget represents less than one percent of its budget, Boise State President Marlene Trump said it would harm the university, possibly forcing it to furlough employees and staff. 

“When you’re talking about 30,000 students and 2,700 employees, that’s a tough impact to take. What dollars translate to in a university most often is people, and so $409,000 is a significant figure because that’s a lot of potential people’s salary.” 

State Representative Ron Nate wanted steeper cuts to the university’s $240 million budget. The current proposal, he said, is “disappointing” and came “nowhere near sending the message.” An alternative measure he endorsed would cut the university’s budget by $18 million. 

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Trump hopes the issue will be resolved when she can again visit lawmakers at the State Capitol Building. 

“It has been a grief for me not to spend more time down at the Capitol this year because of a lot of the questions people have raised in legislative meetings I could have answered and would have been happy to answer. I’m really going to have to give a lot of attention to our legislators so I can answer those questions directly.” 

Follow the author of this article: Dion J. Pierre