Marlene Tromp didn’t shy away from controversy in her first campus address as president of Boise State University Wednesday morning.
Tromp wasted no time in nodding and winking at the recent blowback she received just days after taking office from 28 lawmakers critical of Boise State’s diversity programs.
“It is a politically volatile moment characterized by ideological divisiveness and polarization. It’s a moment in which words can be weaponized by unfriendly or fearful audiences and even misunderstood by the friendliest ones,” she said.
The letter from Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) blasted initiatives like supporting additional graduation celebrations for minority and LGBTQ students following the main ceremony, or encouraging undocumented students to apply for scholarships funded by state taxpayers.
Tromp said the university must continue to be a marketplace of ideas and opinions that can be heard, discussed and respected, regardless of a person’s political persuasion.
“Sometimes our engagement with one another will cause harm. I’ve had a taste of this myself in the short time I’ve been here,” she said. “Perhaps you’ve noticed.”
The friendly audience greeted her with a standing ovation and no fewer than two-dozen applause breaks.
Tromp spent much of the nearly hour-long speech congratulating faculty and staff for their work and promising to devote more resources to them and students alike.
She also challenged them to continue expanding the school’s research capabilities, which benefits the students, as well as the institution.
“They get to be a part of what it means to solve the world’s problems. They’re not just reading it in a textbook, they’re finding it in their labs and the archives and in the field. That is transformative for students.”
Research at Boise State during the most recent fiscal year totaled $41 million – a new high-water mark for the university and a 64% increase from five years ago.
That led to Boise State being elevated to an “R2” research university, joining Idaho State University and University of Idaho in that category.
Tromp said focusing on attracting rural students and reversing the perception that a four-year degree isn’t worth the cost will also be a top priority.
Classes at Boise State begin next Monday.
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