Last Friday, in our JFAC committee hearing, I asked Boise State University President, Marlene Tromp, the following question about programming and the budget for BSU.
Thank you, President Tromp for your presentation.
Last year in the budgeting process this area of the budget, Higher Education, was particularly contentious. Not much has changed. Many Idahoans and legislators are still frustrated with BSU and some of what they see at other universities. They see the mission of the BSU shifting rather dramatically from being a premier institution of Higher Education toward becoming an institution of Higher Indoctrination or Higher Social Activism. The source of many legislators’ frustration is what is happening at BSU.
After last year’s budget battle, and throughout 2020, instead of tempering its agenda, BSU doubled down. In a year of budget holdbacks and cost containments and furloughs, BSU actually hired new administrators in the BUILD forum which has a dedicated social justice mission. In a year where there was political unrest across the nation directed largely at police forces, BSU joined in by ending its longstanding contract with the Boise Police department. BSU effectively expelled Big City Coffee from its campus for exercising its free speech in displaying a flag in support of our police. BSU has faculty and admins who unabashedly support the Black Lives Matter Marxist agenda and BSU departments issued statements on the BSU website claiming commitment to this Marxist group. BSU is requiring more courses in social justice, teaching topics like Critical Race Theory and Intersectionalism, while reducing required credits in traditional courses like American History and Government.
This has not gone unnoticed. Many legislators here are even more upset to see taxpayer dollars spent, not for Higher Education, but at least in part for advancing a social agenda that is contrary to the values of most of Idaho. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund an activist institution that fights against their values and does so to the detriment of its students.
The budget for all of Higher education ran at nearly $630 million dollars in FY21. That is the 3rd largest spending category in the General Fund. The spending for all of Idaho’s public universities is rolled into this one budget. Many legislators, frustrated with BSU, want to defund the Social Justice Agenda by reducing higher education spending. Whether or not you think the legislators are justified in their views is not the question here. The reality is our constituents are very upset and want some action taken against BSU in particular. Legislators are likewise upset, especially because of BSU doubling down on its controversial agenda, and they want to do something about it.
My question is this. What do you, President Tromp, as the leader of BSU think of separating BSU’s budget out from the other universities to be decided on its own and so that the other universities do not get rolled up in the controversy BSU has invited from the legislature? Would you be ok with determining BSU’s budget on its own, so the other universities don’t become collateral damage?
President Tromp’s answer was essentially to keep all the budgets together and she seemed unconcerned about BSU’s controversy affecting other universities. I will work to hold BSU accountable and keep the other universities harmless nonetheless. Idaho taxpayers should not have to pay taxes only to see those dollars supporting programs that violate Idaho values.
Ron is a professor of economics at BYU-Idaho and an Idaho state representative (LD.34). He specializes in applied microeconomics, public economics, quantitative methods, the economics of education, poverty economics, and public choice. He has been teaching for nearly 30 years, beginning at the University of Connecticut, Ohio University-Eastern, and the last 19 years at BYU-Idaho.