After Republicans blasted Boise State University’s diversity programs this past summer, state lawmakers from both parties squared off in a debate Tuesday night on the issue.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) and 27 other Republicans wrote a letter to Boise State President Marlene Tromp, saying the school shouldn’t pay for pro-diversity programs. Those include things like extra graduation ceremonies for minority students and hiring new staff to handle inclusion issues.
Ehardt emphatically said she supports diversity.
“But I believe that Boise State’s initiatives, which are indicative of that which is occurring throughout the country, are creating a false narrative of inclusion and diversity, and they are, in fact, dividing and segregating,” she said.
That word, segregation, set off House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding (D-Boise). Erpelding defined segregation as an institutional way of locking people out of opportunity that had historically been used to oppress African Americans, Chinese Americans and other racial groups.
“Nothing that is happening on this campus, while we can have debates, is anywhere near segregation,” he said.
Lawmakers who signed the letter say these support programs divide the student body and can drown out conservatives who feel like they can’t express their views. Ehardt specifically mentioned students who wear Make America Great Again hats in support of President Donald Trump who are bullied by classmates and professors.
But Assistant Senate Minority Leader Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise) says such programs and opportunities help students feel like they belong on a campus that’s almost 75% white.
“Sometimes, we have to use something other than mainstream dominate culture’s definition of who has the right to go to school and get an education,” Buckner-Webb said.
Ultimately, Republicans say their big concern is the hiring of nearly two-dozen university staff to tackle these issues. Rep. Bryan Zollinger (R-Idaho Falls) says that money could’ve instead gone towards cutting college costs for students.
“That’s why the letter was written. [It] was to keep tuition rates low for students by not increasing bureaucracy on college campuses.”
Both Ehardt and Zollinger say they don’t support cutting funding to Boise State, even though it was an idea floated by one of their colleagues who signed the letter in an interview with Breitbart News Saturday.
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