BOISE, Idaho — Representative Barbara Ehardt, an Idaho Republican lawmaker who wrote a letter to Boise State president Marlene Tromp criticizing the diversity efforts of the school responds to a story Six On Your Side reported on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, we spoke with three Idaho Republican lawmakers who signed the letter written by Representative Ehardt, which criticized diversity efforts put in place by then Interim President Martin Schimpf, and now, Ehardt says she has some things she wants clarified regarding that letter.
"He was an interim president, took some liberties in creating over 30, and I say 30, there was actually more than that, but 30 different directions when it was coming to things that he wanted Boise State to be focusing on," said Rep. Barbara Ehardt, (R) Idaho Falls.
Some of the initiatives listed in that newsletter from Interim President Martin Schimpf included allocating $30,000 annually for multicultural events like “rainbow graduation” and “black graduation”. Not to be confused with commencement; each student still attends the same commencement. These are added events for students of different backgrounds to celebrate with those who have things in common with them.
"We have to be careful about creating special groups," said Ehardt.
While students often create these types of groups at any university, Representative Ehardt says schools and universities should not take part in the creation or funding of these groups.
"We have to be cognizant of the manner in which we spend money. The thing that we have to remember is that right now school, tuition, is getting more and more difficult for our students to be able to attend," said Ehardt.
Another concern mentioned by Ehardt was Schimpfs allocation of funds for scholarships available to students of diverse backgrounds. Ehardt believes those funds should be available to all who apply to Boise State University.
"As they're trying to work and move forward, and even applying for scholarships, and whether they're opportunity scholarships or whatever they may be, that that process is fair, and that that process, just like lady justice, that process should be blind," said Ehardt.
On the other hand, supporters of the diversity efforts say the letter was unnecessary.
"Their letter was essentially a way to say, 'we failed to fund higher education for the last 20 years, and so rather than effectively fund higher education, we're going to tell you what programs you should and shouldn't be doing and we're gonna use racially and charged concepts that help no one," said Rep. Mat Erpelding, (D) Boise.
Representative Erpelding, an instructor at Boise State University, believes the diversity programs organized at the school are necessary.
"The reality is our city continues to diversify and as our university continues to grow, the diversity and inclusion efforts that the previous president did, and hopefully President Tromp will do, adds to the academic success of all our students," said Erpelding.
Ehardt said this is only the beginning of the legislature looking into efforts and initiatives taking place at other schools around the state.
In speaking with Tromp Wednesday, she said it is “incredibly important” to her that students of all backgrounds are supported. She said she believes the purpose of these multicultural groups are to bring students of similar backgrounds together, to help them feel more at home.