In a letter obtained by IdahoReporter.com, a group of 20 Republican legislators from the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate have asked the University Idaho College of Law to ease up on threats they believe it's making over diversity training slated for next week on its Boise and Moscow campuses.
The group includes House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Eagle.
In the message to Dean Don Burnett, dean of the law school, the lawmakers decried not the diversity training course, but a section of a message about instructional sessions they believe could be construed as a threat.
In a Jan. 22 message, the school informed students they would be required to take a course called “Dialogues on Professionalism and Diversity” as an extra part of their legal studies. Included in the message is the following paragraph, with which lawmakers are taking exception:
Roll call will be taken. Attending students will have a certificate of participation placed in their student record files. Any student who does not participate, and has not been excused, will have a memorandum to that effected placed in his or her student record file.
The legislators believe that part of the message is an unwarranted threat.
“Though this is an event of importance to the university and the College of Law, such importance cannot serve to justify threats to place into a student’s permanent record a letter indicating that they did not attend a workshop on professionalism and diversity,” the group wrote in the letter. “The implication of such a letter in a student file gives the impression that a particular student did not care to attend such an event because they disagreed with the subject matter or did not find value in such things as professionalism and diversity.”
The lawmakers slammed the school for making the effort to make students appear bigoted. “As a publicly funded institution, using the threat of a memo suggesting clearly that a student is unprofessional, bigoted or both for not attending an extracurricular activity not part of the university’s course catalog is simply unacceptable,” they said.
The group did not ask the university to stop the classes, but did request that the non-attendance letters not be put in students’ files.
Ryan Sargent, student body president of the law school, told IdahoReporter.com Tuesday that the non-attendance letters could affect a student’s career. While students can keep their student records private, the attorney licensing board, known as the bar, must see the files in order to certify new lawyers.
Sargent says the letters will make students look bad. “It will make us look bigoted,” he said, adding that he isn’t necessarily opposed to the content of the diversity courses. Sargent simply wishes the school wouldn’t have threatened students and would be more cooperative in the process. He says the school has been unresponsive to student concerns.
The school has not responded to a request for comment on the issue.