Documents obtained through discovery in the Big City Coffee lawsuit against Boise State University (BSU) have revealed social justice ideology in the student council, the administration, and various aspects of BSU contracts and business decisions.
As there is quite a lot of information to report, this will be a series of articles over the next few days.
To fully understand the context in which the culture has changed at Boise State (and indeed, the world), a brief history of student government at BSU is warranted.
The Boise State student council has existed as long as the school itself. As the school changed names and status, the council name changed with it. At its inception in 1932 it was called the Associated Students of Boise Junior College. This was changed in 1965 to Associated Students of Boise College. When the school became a state college in 1968, the council name changed to Associated Students of Boise State College. Finally in 1974 when BSU became the university we see today, the student council became what it is called now, Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU). More information on this history is found here, and throughout various pages of the BSU website.
Also detailed on the BSU website is the history of the structure of BSU government. It gives a short overview of the timeline up to the date of the page, November 2022:
“ASBSU’s Constitution was revised often between 1974 and 1986, until the judicial branch rendered the Constitution “null and void” for its “ambiguity, over-specification, and several irrelevances.” Previously, the procedure for adding a constitutional amendment was for a Senate member to propose a change, and for two-thirds of the Senate to agree to the proposition. After the revisions, a change to the Constitution required a constitutional convention. More revisions occurred in 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2018.Advertisement
The political structure of the club has changed over time to reflect a better understanding of governments and the changing values of the campus. Early iterations of ASBSU were composed of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Currently, however, ASBSU is made up of four main governing bodies: the Executive Council, the Student Funding Board, the Inclusive Excellence Student Council, and the Student Assembly.
One of ASBSU’s most important duties is to allocate funding to the various student clubs and organizations on campus.”
The timeline described ends with a Constitutional amendment in 2018.Advertisement
In a report entitled Social Justice Ideology in Idaho Higher Education written by BSU Political Science Professor Dr. Scott Yenor and Anna K. Miller, the Education Policy Analyst at Idaho Freedom Foundation, a timeline is detailed describing relevant activity within BSU between July 2017 and Fall 2020. It begins by describing that in July 2017,
“President Bob Kustra’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion issued a report recommending “that Boise State begin the process of building a comprehensive institution-wide strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.” (14)
Kustra’s commission thought the university must spearhead transformative change in Idaho. Defeating oppression and victimhood would become central to BSU’s mission. “Our institution and those that lead it have reinforced cultural, structural, and personal norms of what success looks like in Idaho and rural America.” The “true success” of a new university and a new Idaho would center on “inclusive excellence – achieved through a ‘self-reflective and uncompromised commitment to the practice of inclusivity, which seeks to break from implicit and limiting biases that reify exclusionary practices.” The university would “replace dominant cultural norms” with a more “welcoming culture” by devising concrete steps to promote social justice.”
You can see in the report that the citation referred to as (14) states,
“This report has been taken down from the Boise State website.”
The report then says that in August 2017,
“Francisco Salinas is hired as director of Student Diversity and Inclusion with a budget funded through student fees.”
The report timeline then describes the changes up to Fall 2020,1_4992607964989752261_231015_130545
Interim President Martin Schimpf released an email to faculty and staff lauding accomplishments in promoting social justice and announcing new initiatives to begin under the new president, Marlene Tromp. Accomplishments included: establishing scholarships for illegal immigrants; establishing implicit bias training for faculty on search committees; having job searches undergo “statistical analysis for assessing number of underrepresented candidates in the pool”; and setting aside scholarships specifically for “underrepresented minority students.”
Future plans include hiring an associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and mandatory preferred pronoun system with faculty training. Schimpf expressed “every confidence that Dr. Marlene Tromp has the background, experience and drive to take Boise State to new levels of diversity and inclusive excellence.”
The job search began for Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion.
The job search was suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic began, though at least one candidate had been to campus.
The BUILD program was established as “an independent entity in service to [the] campus” and to “address important needs that extend beyond the classroom.” The BUILD program is tasked with contributing to “an inclusive climate campus wide,” supporting “inclusive faculty hiring” and creating “inclusive departmental environments.” Two new hires—Tasha Souza, director of BUILD, and Jeremy Harper, instructional consultant for Inclusive Teaching—support this mission. The BUILD program will be under the new Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion when that job search is complete.”
Though the report by Yenor and Miller states that Francisco Salinas was hired in August 2017, this page of the BSU website shows Salinas’ hiring was in 2008/2009.
It is unclear at what point the IESC was established. It was the Inclusive Excellence Student Council, which at the time of the documents in this article operated as one of the four governing bodies within ASBSU. It may have been an extension of the Student Equity Center, or as described by Yenor and Miller,
“The IESC seems to be a successor organization of the Council for Inclusive Excellence founded after Kustra’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.”
Idaho Dispatch recently reported that student body president Cheyon Sheen had posted to Snapchat her disapproval of Big City Coffee’s presence on the Boise State campus after learning that Big City Coffee owner Sarah Fendley is a supporter of law enforcement. Dated prior to Sheen’s post, 2020 transcripts of Boise State ASBSU/IESC student council meetings show a discussion outlining the outrage among council members regarding the approval process that was used for Big City’s campus location.
In attendance at the meeting on September 1, 2020 were Ryann Banks (Vice President of Inclusive Excellence), Amanda Hawks (IESC Member), Hailey Opperman (IESC Member), Em McNay (IESC Member), Sarah Smith (Administrative Director), Kenneth Huston (Ethics Officer), Francisco Salinas (Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion), Leslie Webb (Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management). Not listed as an attendee but shown in the minutes is another person named “Alyssa.”
In the “Updates” portion of the meeting, Banks mentions,
“Kenny will be coming in the last 10 minutes of the meeting to discuss the non-binary pronouns in the [Boise State] Constitution/Code.”
The meeting then moved on to “New Business.” Webb begins the discussion with,
“A. Nicole Nimmons asked Leslie if IESC was aware that Big City Coffee is coming to campus.
B. The owner of Big City Coffee posted on Facebook that they support the Thin Blue Line. The owner, Sarah, wants to be a part of the Inclusive Campus Community. Nicole will be coming to IESC soon to discuss her conversations with Sarah.”
McNay responds, asking,
“Who picks who comes to campus for restaurants?”
“Lots of different people it is all underworks currently and we are relooking at external vendors.”
Near the end of the meeting, this conversation took place between council members. “Kenny” refers to Kenneth Huston. Each line is a quote of the person named:
“Kenny – I have been looking at the [BSU] Constitution and there is a mix of ‘they/them’ and ‘ze/zir’. Do we want to make it the same non-binary pronouns or leave it a mix?
A. Hailey – We did that because ‘they/them’ is more accessible for students
B. Em – I think ‘they/them’ is more accessible and a gender-neutral option
C. Kenny – I was just concerned that we would be moving backward by using ‘they/them’
D. Em explains why ‘ze/zir’ is used and the possible benefits of using ‘they/them’ instead
E. Kenny – I will change it to ‘they/them’ when I see it.”
The 9/01/2020 meeting minutes in its entirety can be seen here:PLF000186 IESC Minutes 9.1.20
Part two of this series on ASBSU and social justice ideology will follow promptly.
Feature photo courtesy of Idaho State Journal
Tags: Amanda Hawks, Anna K. Miller, ASBSU, Associated Students of Boise State University, Boise State University, BSU, Chayon Sheen, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Scott Yenor, Em McNay, Francisco Salinas, Hailey Opperman, IESC, Kenneth Huston, Leslie Webb, marginalized students, Marlene Tromp, non-binary, privilege, Pronouns, Ryann Banks, Sarah Smith, Social Justice Ideology