Condemning Intolerance in Idaho

It’s difficult for a news story to cut through all of the noise and political rhetoric we hear daily—but this month’s public letter from Idaho’s Republican state legislators did exactly that.

The letter, addressed to the new President of Boise State University, Dr. Marlene Tromp, was written by Rep. Barbara Ehardt from Idaho Falls and signed by many Republican legislators in Idaho.

In the letter, Rep. Ehardt explains that she and signers-on are disconcerted by the university’s latest diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, stating, Boise State University is an Idaho school and as such should reflect Idaho values.” Rep. Ehardt presents a detailed list of initiatives and goals that she deems “antithetical to the Idaho way” including:

  • Multicultural student events, including Pow Wow, Rainbow Graduation, Black Graduation, Project Dream
  • Fellowships and graduate school preparation courses for underrepresented minority students
  • Gender-based violence community-coordinated response team
  • LGBTQ+ focused sexual misconduct prevention programming
  • Implicit bias training
  • Encouraging DACA students to apply for Idaho’s Opportunity Scholarships
  • Student Affairs staff positions to support first-generation students of color and Native American students

A few days after the letter was issued, a number of Idaho lawmakers and state officials received anonymous postcards in the mail that mocked Dr. Tromp, state education officials, and the university’s diversity initiatives. The cards include cartoons depicting Dr. Tromp and Idaho State Board of Education members as clowns with statements like “BSU & Idaho Ed. Clown World” and “Alt-Gender-Cult center for LGBTQ creep clowns.”

As an Idaho school, Boise State University should reflect Idaho values—but the values outlined in this letter are not reflective of the Idaho we are trying to create together.  

Idaho’s Joint Democratic Caucus issued a letter in response that reflects the values that make Idaho the incredible place that it is—values like safety, affordable and equitable access to life-long learning opportunities, and fairness.

We applaud the ongoing efforts of Boise State University to lift up marginalized and underrepresented students throughout Idaho. At Pride Foundation, we are driven by a core belief that equity in education must be held paramount if we want to build a better world now and for generations to come—and Boise State is helping to build that world.

Thank you Boise State University, Idaho’s Joint Democratic Caucus, and all of the people and organizations who are working to support equity in education throughout Idaho and beyond.

Together, we are showing the world the true meaning of the Idaho way.


Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Philanthropy Officer in Idaho.

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