Idaho Universities at a Crossroad: Social Justice or the Pursuit of Truth?

Peter Wood

In July, 28 Idaho legislators sent a letter to Boise State University, expressing concern over its diversity initiatives and other sources of politicization. NAS President Peter Wood sent a letter, posted below, to all signatories, thanking them for calling out the distortions at Boise State University caused by identity politics, and noting that NAS's research indicates problems in other Idaho universities as well. We continue to urge Boise State University and all institutions to eliminate neo-segregation and give equal opportunity to all students, staff, and faculty.


July 17, 2019

Rep. Barbara Ehardt
Idaho House of Representatives
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720

Dear Rep. Ehardt,

Thank you for drawing attention to the distortions at Boise State University caused by identity politics. Like you, I am alarmed by the university’s singling out groups for preferential treatment. Higher education should be a place dedicated to the pursuit of truth—not the pursuit of “social justice,” diversity, or other ideological goals.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS), of which I am president, has for the last thirty-two years documented and criticized the politicization and trivialization of higher education. We uphold the standards of a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship. We are a membership group of three thousand faculty members, trustees, students, and concerned members of the public in all fifty states, including in Idaho.

We echo your concerns about Boise State University, and I encourage you to continue pressing Idaho’s colleges and universities to refocus on academics, not ideology.

Like you, we are alarmed at the rise of multiculturalism at America’s colleges and universities. Our most recent research project, “Separate but Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in American Higher Education,” examined the return of segregation to colleges and universities in the name of providing “safe spaces” and special resources for minority students. Universities often promote the benefits of diversity while actively constructing ethnic enclaves, promoting racial resentment, and founding organizational structures based on group grievance.

In the first report in this series, Neo-Segregation at Yale, we concluded,

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. No doubt a large portion of the racial grievance politics we see in society at large these days is the carefully nurtured product of campus neo-segregation.[1]

We also compiled a database of neo-segregation at 173 colleges around the country, including one in Idaho. We did not survey Boise State University, but we did find that at the University of Idaho, there are at least six programs that promote neo-segregation:

  • The Diversity Scholars Program, which provides special “academic, cultural, social assistance” to students who have received “any of the diversity scholarships” at the University of Idaho.
  • The Student Diversity Center, which “supports…constructive dialogue related to diversity” and is meant for “students, staff and faculty who share [its] principles.”
  • PACE Peer Mentor Program, which singles out “multicultural students” for mentorship.
  • Jennie Eva Hughes Award, awarded annually to two students “who have shown genuine concern and interest toward multicultural issues and worked on behalf of multiculturalism on campus.”
  • American Indian Studies Program, which offers an undergraduate minor and a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an American Indian Studies emphasis. The Program also aims for students in other majors to “gain a multicultural perspective” by taking select courses in American Indian Studies.
  • Africana Studies Minor, which intends for its graduates to “be better equipped, both personally and professionally, to work with and for diverse populations.”

Other programs in Idaho universities are also alarming. The University of Idaho, for example, hosts a Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institute, in which the Chinese government selects and pays Chinese language teachers, selects and sends free textbooks, and arranges for a one-sided unilaterally pro-China emphasis. NAS helped blow the whistle on Confucius Institutes in our 2017 report, Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education, and last year FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the U.S. Senate that the FBI is concerned about espionage and taking “investigative steps” at Confucius Institutes. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act banned Pentagon funding to language programs associated with Confucius Institutes, and 24 American universities have decided to close their Confucius Institutes.

And Boise State University’s Writing Center has adopted social justice as a guiding principle, going so far as to develop a list of recommended “Resources for Social Justice in the Writing Center,” including articles about gender-neutral pronouns, the article “Queering the Writing Center,” and a book chapter titled “Constructing a Pedagogy of Whiteness for Angry White Students.”[2]

The National Association of Scholars stands ready to help in an endeavor to hold Idaho’s universities to the standards of intellectual freedom and academic excellence.

You may have seen that South Dakota recently passed a law promoting intellectual diversity in South Dakota’s public colleges and universities. NAS publicly supported the bill, and I dispatched our director of research, David Randall, to testify in South Dakota regarding the bill. Last month we wrote to the South Dakota Board of Regents with detailed recommendations on how to implement the new law and promote intellectual diversity.[3]

If the National Association of Scholars can be helpful to you going forward, please do not hesitate to let us know. You may reach me directly at pwood@nas.org or 917-551-6770.

Yours,

Peter Wood
President

CC:

Rep. Sage Dixon, District 1
Rep. Heather Scott, District 1
Rep. Vito Barbieri, District 2
Rep. John Green, District 2
Rep. Tony Wisniewski, District 3
Rep. Ron Mendive, District 3
Rep. Bill Goesling, District 5
Rep. Mike Kingsley, District 6
Rep. Thyra Stevenson, District 6
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, District 7
Rep. Paul Shepherd, District 7
Rep. Dorothy Moon, District 8
Rep. Terry Gestrin, District 8
Rep. Judy Boyle, District 9
Rep. Tammy Nichols, District 11
Rep. Brent Crane, District 13
Rep. Mike Moyle, District 14
Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, District 14
Rep. Steven Harris, District 21
Rep. Jason Monks, District 22
Rep. John Vander Woude, District 22
Rep. Christy Zito, District 23
Rep. Randy Armstrong, District 28
Rep. Kevin Andrus, District 28
Rep. Julianne Young, District 31
Rep. Chad Christensen, District 32
Rep. Bryan Zollinger, District 33

 

[1] Dion J. Pierre and Peter Wood, Neo-Segregation at Yale, National Association of Scholars (2019), p. 29. https://www.nas.org/reports/separate-but-equal-again

[3] “South Dakota Intellectual Diversity Recommendations,” National Association of Scholars, June 3, 2019. https://www.nas.org/blogs/statement/south-dakota-intellectual-diversity-recommendations

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