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Idaho Lawmakers Target Boise State University Budget Over Social Justice Programs

Roam Yocham
Boise State Public Radio

Boise State University’s budget could take a hit from lawmakers in response to the school’s diversity programs.

Boise State Public Radio receives a portion of its funding from Boise State University, but remains editorially independent.

Boise State has been under fire from lawmakers for nearly two years over programs like multicultural graduations, fellowships for minority students and implicit bias training.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) moved to cut millions of dollars from the school’s budget Wednesday morning.

“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,” Giddings said.

She claims Boise State University, Idaho State University, Lewis-Clark State College and University of Idaho collectively spend nearly $19 million on social justice initiatives.

But Rep. Colin Nash (D-Boise) said Boise State isn’t an outlier. Nash pointed toa new report from Brigham Young University in Utah that shows the school is embracing a diversity push, too.

“The same exact programs are being recommended by BYU administrators at perhaps the most conservative university in the country and BYU isn’t doing this because it’s trendy,” he said.

Democrats attempted to pass the budget recommended by Gov. Brad Little’s office, but were unsuccessful.

Giddings’ proposal failed, but the budget writing Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) ultimately recommended cutting about $410,000 from Boise State.

Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville) made that motion, saying talks with the university weren’t fruitful.

“We are unable to communicate the frustrations of this legislature and the people who live outside metropolitan areas so we are left with no other option,” Crabtree said.

The proposal would also require colleges and universities to certify that no public money was used to “support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus.” That report would be due next January, if approved.

“Boise State University remains committed to supporting each and every one of our students and to creating a welcoming, challenging and exciting learning environment for all," said Boise State president Marlene Tromp in a written statement.

“We are listening. We are committed to working with legislators, students and community partners to ensure we are hearing the voices of all Idahoans and fulfilling our role in the continuous improvement that advances the university and helps Idaho’s workforce and economy grow.”

The proposal totals a $315.2 million budget for Idaho’s four, four-year institutions from the general fund. Adding in tuition, fees and federal funds, the state’s proposed higher education budget sits at $631.4 million.

It’d need approval from the House, Senate and the governor to take effect.

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

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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