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Boise State President Promotes Free Speech Institute In Annual Address

Boise State President Marlene Tromp
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Boise State President Marlene Tromp, seen in this file photo, gave her annual State of the University Address Wednesday.

Boise State President Marlene Tromp promoted the opening of a new institute championing free speech in her annual state of the university address Wednesday.

Tromp announced the Boise State Institute for Advancing American Values earlier this year in a speech to business leaders.

She said the institute will advocate for civility and respect among people with differing viewpoints.

“Haven’t we seen too little dialogue in the last couple of years where people who disagree cannot talk to each other? We’re going to be a model,” Tromp said.

She unveiled the institute after Republican state lawmakers cut the university’s budget by $1.5 million. They claim the school indoctrinates students with leftist values, something Boise State denies.

“We are so polarized that we have almost forgotten that it’s possible for us to find our shared humanity and to solve our common problems together,” Tromp said Wednesday.

Andrew Finstuen is dean of the Boise State Honors College and the interim director of the institute.

Finstuen said the university has been emphasizing these kinds of ideas since last fall when Dr. Tromp started her Conviction and Conversation in Contested Times series.

Talks about creating the institute happened in late 2020 before the budget cuts, he said, but they did play a role.

“We took that occasion to double down on this mission that that’s what we should be up to: speaking about the value of higher education, speaking about how education ties to opportunity, ties to freedom of expression,” Finstuen said.

Funding for the institute will come partially from a philanthropic donation, the details of which have not yet been made public.

Finstuen said the state board of education will vote on approving the institute next week.

In her address, Tromp also highlighted a 13% increase in research grants compared to the prior year, despite the pandemic.

She also celebrated raising $500,000 for the President’s True Blue Scholarship, which awards $2,000 annually for four years to Idaho residents based on merit and financial need.

Every future fundraising opportunity for the university, Tromp said, will also feature a scholarship component.

Editor's note: Boise State University holds the broadcast license for Boise State Public Radio, but our coverage remains editorially independent.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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