It should be obvious to everyone at this point that the presidents of Idaho’s public colleges and universities don’t care one bit what you think about how they spend your money. They’re going to do whatever they damn well please, regardless of how instructed by lawmakers. And your job as a taxpayer is to pay the bills and shut up.
That’s very much the answer that Boise State President Marlene Tromp gave when Rep. Ron Nate asked her last week what the university has done to comply with the Legislature’s directive to reduce social justice spending by a measly $1.5 million last year. Tromp told Nate and legislative budget writers — the people she’s been defying since the budget requirement was imposed in July — that the school’s approach to social justice has “evolved.” That’s apparently a fancy ivy tower way to say “expanded,” because that’s what BSU has done.
Not to be outdone, University of Idaho President Scott Green’s approach to demonstrating he would ignore their decision to cut $500,000 from social justice initiatives was to commission a law firm to write a report, laughably described in the press as “independent,” that makes excuses for why the school’s social justice programs should carry on.
So concerned was Green about complying with the Legislature’s edicts that he waited until September to sign the contract for the law firm to develop the report, which was released at last week’s joint budget committee meeting. While annoying that public money was wasted on a self-serving report that attacks the Idaho Freedom Foundation, it’s more outrageous that the money was used to make excuses for the University of Idaho’s continued promotion of leftism.
At least Idaho State University’s Kevin Satterlee did something, unlike his counterparts. Satterlee redirected $500,000 away from social justice spending. But while taxpayers aren't on the hook for evil leftist programs, students are; Satterlee ordered student fees to fund social justice spending. It’s still not a winning response.
This conversation about social justice indoctrination on Idaho’s college campuses has been going on since the extent of the programming came to light in 2019. In 2020, lawmakers directed the colleges and universities to cut administrative bloat and get back to their core missions. The schools responded by doing nothing. Last year, lawmakers specified a dollar amount that needed to be cut and targeted social justice programs, and yet nothing has changed.
BSU still has a gender equity center, BUILD program, Blue Sky Institute, and at least four administrators dedicated to diversity and inclusion. The University of Idaho still has an LBGTQIA office, a Women’s Center, an Office of Multicultural Affairs, and an Office of Equity and Diversity. Idaho State University has an Office of Equity and Inclusion and a Gender Resource Center. All three schools offer degrees, courses, and certificates that are infused with social justice ideology, and they’re all funded by Idahoan taxpayers.
It’s apparent that $2.5 million wasn’t enough to get the higher education system’s attention. If lawmakers don’t make them hurt this time around, by cutting deep instead of demanding a cut that’s close to a rounding error, nothing will change.
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