The Idaho Freedom Foundation today sent out a fundraising email headed, “You can strike back against BSU's radical agenda. Here's how…” The answer, it turns out, is to send the IFF a donation. “If you are able, please make a $5 gift — make a difference — today,” the email urges.

Signed by IFF President Wayne Hoffman, the email continues to repeat the claim that Boise State University holds segregated graduation ceremonies — though BSU’s May 11 commencement was an all-school event in Taco Bell Arena, just as it is every year. This year’s class was so large that the giant graduation ceremony was divided by college into morning and afternoon segments.

Numerous groups, including colleges, departments, faith groups and student clubs, also held various additional celebrations on campus in the weeks surrounding the big event. Among them, IFF has seized on the “Rainbow Graduation” and “Black Graduation” celebrations, which were highlighted in a June newsletter from then-interim BSU President Martin Schimpf as examples of the university’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

In the fundraising email, Hoffman writes, “If someone told you, ‘Segregation is the path to inclusiveness,’ what would you think? Personally, I would wonder if they’re crazy. But that thinking has infected our colleges and universities. Consider that BSU funded segregationist graduation ceremonies, including:

Black graduation for African-American students

Rainbow graduation for LBGTQA+ students

There’s a word for this: neo-segregation. But the Idaho way is treating all students equally—and just $5 can help demand change right now.”

The fundraising pitch also says for a $50 donation, IFF will send a copy of "The Coddling of the American Mind," a 2018 book, "to a BSU or U of I diversity officer." 

It was IFF Vice President Fred Birnbaum who forwarded the interim president’s newsletter, with comments dubbing BSU “radical,” to GOP legislators two days after the newsletter went out to students, faculty and staff. Then, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, penned a letter to new BSU President Marlene Tromp sharply criticizing BSU diversity and inclusion programs as “antithetical to the Idaho way.”

Hoffman, in today’s email, writes, “Pressure from the public — people like you — is leading to conversations with university officials. Ultimately, you can help stop this openly leftist, falsely ‘inclusive’ agenda in our higher education.”

Yesterday, after Gov. Brad Little addressed the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Boise State Public Radio reporter James Dawson asked him about the concerns raised by the GOP lawmakers in their letter. Little had a different take.

“That’s something that those institutions have been doing – and I’m all about having more and more kids graduating from college,” the governor told Dawson. “If they think there’s a barrier there, real or perceived, if we can say, ‘We want this barrier out of the way where they can get their education,’ I’m all in.” Dawson’s full report is online here.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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