The Post Register would have its readers believe there’s nothing controversial about “diversity” programs at Idaho’s public colleges and universities. Actually, they are controversial. Quite so. So much so that the National Association of Scholars has a name for these types of programs: neo-segregation. The president of the NAS, Peter Wood, says neo-segregation “is a disguised form of political oppression.”
“Neo-segregation harms the students it pretends to protect,” Wood has written, adding that it prompts minority students to live in fear of others. “Higher education should liberate them from this fear and give them the freedom to be full participants in American society.”
That’s what is troubling about Boise State University’s diversity efforts. They’re not inclusive. They are divisive. BSU has a “Black Graduation” and a “Rainbow Graduation.” It emphasizes awarding scholarships to the children of illegal immigrants ahead of Idaho-born students. BSU has a policy to hire based on race, gender and sexual orientation. These are not intended to lift up minority students and staff. Rather, these programs treat people as victims.
“The public should care because neo-segregation is the breeding ground of racial conflict in American society. Neo-segregation inculcates in young people the readiness to cling to a victim identity at the expense of becoming a positive member of the larger community,” Wood wrote.
The Post Register’s recent editorial focused on the July 9 letter, signed by 28 Idaho lawmakers, which was sent to Boise State University President Marlene Tromp. That letter expressed concern about BSU’s diversity programs. The newspaper’s editorial says Idahoans shouldn’t worry about diversity programs because the programs are “an undetectable drop” in the budget. Wrong again, Post Register, for three good reasons.
First, these programs, cumulatively, don’t come cheap. The programs certainly cost more than what taxpayers spent on the Jefferson County sheriff’s wife getting free use of a government cell phone a few years ago. The newspaper, fortunately, didn’t succumb to the “drop-in-the-bucket” argument in that case, as the paper devoted a ton of ink and pixels to that story.
It costs money to host alternative graduation ceremonies. Further, there’s the expense of university employees to head up these efforts. The University of Idaho’s chief diversity officer makes more than $138,000 a year, not including benefits. The leader of Boise State University’s Student Diversity and Inclusion program earns about $75,000 annually, also not including health benefits. Could that money be used for college scholarships? Or help reduce Idaho’s ever-escalating tuition and mountains of student fees, even slightly? You betcha.
Second, I would hope that were Post Register editorial board members able to transport themselves back in time to the Jim Crow era, the newspaper wouldn’t argue that the expense of installing a water fountain for “colored” individuals was OK because it’s not a lot of money. Segregationist policies are wrong, even if the cost were nothing more than the expense of a sign directing students to BSU’s equivalent of, as the Post Register put it, a “1950s Alabama lunch counter.”
Third, the Post Register contends opposition to so-called diversity programs reminds people of the days in which the Aryan Nations had a headquarters in Idaho and makes Idaho look bad. It’s also quite possible that the reverse is true. Segregating people by race, by the color of their skin is never appropriate. Condoning programs like “Black Graduation” makes Idahoans look bigoted, not “woke.” And speaking of the Aryan Nations, why is the Post Register unconcerned that Boise State has a special graduation ceremony for black students yet nothing special for Jews, who were also targeted by the racist organization?
I’m not really surprised that the Post Register would choose to use its editorial page to snarkily insult the Idaho Freedom Foundation or the many good people who have supported our work for the last decade. However, it is surprising and frustrating that the newspaper would be unwilling to even entertain the possibility that there’s another side to this story, a genuine concern that neo-segregation, adopted and in use on college campuses here and elsewhere, is wrong for our higher education system, wrong for Idaho students and bad for the wellbeing of our country.