SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 17, 2021

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Boise State University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 17, 2021, the Idaho State Legislature voted to cut over $400,000 from Boise State University (BSU), specifically targeting the university’s social justice programs.

On March 3, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) approved a higher education budget, which included a $409,000 cut from BSU. The bill also requires BSU, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, and Lewis-Clark State College to report to the JFAC that no funds from student tuition or the general budget were used to “support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus.” 

On March 16, BSU announced the suspension and review of a course on diversity and ethics, impacting 52 course sections, in response to allegations that students were “humiliated and degraded” in the class “for their beliefs and values.” The decision to suspend the class came after a student reportedly recorded a Zoom discussion on white privilege in one of the course sections, during which a white student was allegedly uncomfortable, and sent the video to Idaho state legislators, who were reportedly outraged over the video. (See report)  

On March 17, senators passed the higher education budget. Senator Carl Crabtree, the bill’s floor sponsor, said that the $409,000 budget cut was reflective of what BSU spent on social justice programs. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted reduction of university funding in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of academic freedom. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from encroaching on university autonomy, including the right of university personnel to set academically appropriate curricula, free from political interference. . Actions targeting particular academic content undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally; actions targeting diversity and social justice curricula may also erode core university values including social responsibility and equitable access.