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Wassmuth Center tackles anti-diversity letter sent to Boise State President

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 16:42:40-04

BOISE, Idaho — More than 20 Idaho lawmakers recently sent a letter to new Boise State President, Marlene Tromp.

The letter contended the school's diversity programs cause division and segregation among students.

The letter has been a hot topic on campus for the past month, ever since the school's former acting president sent out a letter detailing how much Boise State is spending on recruiting minority students. Some Boise State students responded with a diversity and inclusion rally on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol.

Part of the controversy, multiple state lawmakers have received a postcard which portrays the new Boise State University President, Marlene Tromp, and campus diversity and inclusion programs as clowns in a "clown world"

“Idaho taxpayer ticket price: $425,000 and sacrificial children,” the postcard reads, in an apparent reference to Tromp’s annual salary as president .

Our Media Partner, Idaho Education News , reports the postcards are just part of the public debate over programs geared to support students of color and LGBTQ students.

Now, the Wassmuth Human Rights Center in Boise is jumping in. The director sent a letter to Tromp saying the lawmaker position is "a gross misstatement of the state's values."

The letter in full reads:

Dr. Tromp:

On behalf of the Board, Staff and Volunteers of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, I would like to welcome you to the Boise community and express our sincere regret that your introduction to Idaho has included a gross misstatement of the state’s values.

In 1995, a traveling exhibit on Anne Frank drew in over 40,000 visitors from across Idaho. This overwhelming interest sparked the idea for a more permanent tribute. The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights was founded in 1996 for the purpose of constructing a memorial to human rights. That vision became a reality when the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial opened to the public in 2002. The Memorial was not built nor funded by the City of Boise or the State of Idaho, it was funded by a community of individual donors, businesses and foundations throughout the state who entrusted the Wassmuth Center to build a physical statement of our shared values.

The Memorial is a world-class educational park inspired by Anne Frank’s faith in humanity. A living, vibrant interactive classroom for Idaho’s school children, it inspires people of all ages to contemplate the moral implications of their actions and the scope of their civic responsibilities. This is the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States. It’s one of the few places in the world where the entire text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on public display, and it is recognized by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience as an official Site of Conscience. Annually, more than 120,000 visitors interact with the Memorial’s message, and approximately 10,000 K-12 and university undergraduate students participate in free docent-led tours. Boise State’s UF200 faculty and students constitute a core presence on those tours.

To showcase the Memorial’s message, more than eighty quotes are carved into its stone, some of them from Anne’s diary and others from human and civil rights advocates throughout history, including one thought from Confucius’s teachings: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” That idea is what the Memorial reinforces, and it’s why the Wassmuth Center’s programming is used in classrooms and communities throughout the state. It’s what we stand for – and it’s how we fulfill our mission to “promote respect for human dignity and diversity through education and to foster individual responsibility to work for peace and justice.”

Though inspired by Anne Frank, the Memorial is not simply a static space to reflect on her short life or even the horrors of the Holocaust. It was instead designed to actively engage us to think, to talk with one another, and to respond to the human rights issues we face in our community, our country and our world. It is a call to action. Both the triumphs and tragedies of the human story are on display, but in every quote and every idea, we see the profound power of a single voice or bold action to overcome great odds and alter the course of history. (Visit the Memorial online at www.annefrankmemorial.org)

That the Memorial is in Boise, our state’s capital, shows a united stance against hate—a united community in support of all members of our human family.

In the National Geographic book, Etched in Stone: Enduring Words from Our Nation’s Monuments, Ryan Coonerty wrote in a profile of the Memorial, “Anne Frank could scarcely have conceived of Boise, Idaho. Therefore, it seems improbable that the author of a diary that has become among the world’s most widely read books has become a symbolic fixture of this community almost sixty years after her death.”

Echoing Anne’s diary, we also read the following in the Memorial, “We simply must work unitedly to remove from our hearts and to drive from our society all elements of hatred, bigotry, racism, and other divisive actions and words that limit a person’s ability to progress, learn, and be fully accepted.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Those are the values we share – and that’s what it means to live in Idaho.

Sincerely,

Dan Prinzing, Ph.D. Executive Director

CC: Idaho State Board of Education Dr. C. Scott Green, president, University of Idaho Dr. Kevin Satterlee, president, Idaho State University Dr. Cynthia Pemberton, president, Lewis-Clark State College Dr. Richard MacLennan, president, North Idaho College Dr. Bert Glandon, president, College of Western Idaho Dr. Jeff Fox, president, College of Southern Idaho Dr. Rick Aman, president, College of Eastern Idaho