Opposition to Diversity Programs Contributes to the Defeat of Idaho’s Higher Education Budget

The Republican-controlled Idaho House of Representatives voted down the proposed budget for the state’s public four-year colleges and universities: Boise State University, Idaho State University, University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College. The bill called for $307 million in state support, just a 0.3 percent increase from the budget passed last year.

One of the reasons that the budget was voted down was because legislators believed that state universities had not taken sufficient action after a letter was sent last summer to new Boise State University President Marlene Tromp. The letter questioned many of the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts that were called “antithetical to the Idaho way.” Among these programs were separate graduation events for Black and LGBT students, graduate fellowships reserved for students from underrepresented groups, financial support for multicultural student centers on campus, and the hiring of administrators to oversee diversity initiatives.

GOP House member Vito Barbieri explained his opposition to the budget by stating: “I can’t imagine the number of vice provosts that must have been hired by these universities when we’re talking about equality and inclusion instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic. We’ve gotta figure out a way to stop rubber stamping these budgets and begin to send the message that we do have a say on what is taught and we do have a say on who they are hiring, for what purposes they are hiring.”

Others in the legislature objected to funding levels that were more than the governor had recommended due to declining enrollments at four-year colleges and universities. The legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will draft another budget proposal for consideration.



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