University of Idaho president rejects indoctrination claims
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The president of the University of Idaho said Friday that “conflict entrepreneurs” using scare tactics and a false social justice narrative to claim students were being indoctrinated led to a $500,000 cut in the school’s budget last year.
Scott Green told the Legislature’s powerful budget-setting committee that he was confident there was no indoctrination taking place, but “conflict entrepreneurs and those who earn their living by scaring people with such illusions have made these claims, which surfaced and were used to cut our budget.”
He also told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that an independent study by a law firm was unable to substantiate the indoctrination allegations by an influential libertarian group called the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which wants to abolish public education.
The study by Hawley Troxell was made public the same day Green spoke, and a copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
“After conducting a thorough and independent investigation, we were unable to substantiate any of the allegations contained in the IFF report,” the Hawley Troxell investigation states in the 26-page report. “UI’s initiatives related to diversity and inclusion stem from independent factors and are not designed to indoctrinate anyone with social justice ideology, including students and university employees alike. Nor did we identify any evidence suggesting such indoctrination has taken place.”
Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, didn’t return a call from the AP.
Republican lawmakers cut $2.5 million from higher education budgets last year based on claims that universities were indoctrinating students. Besides the $500,000 cut to the University of Idaho, Boise State University saw a $1.5 million cut, and Idaho State University a $500,000 cut.
Republicans, who hold super-majorities in the House and Senate, also last year passed legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little aimed at preventing schools and universities from “indoctrinating” students through teaching critical race theory.
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Republican lawmakers raised it as a problem and accused universities of indoctrinating students. Others see it as a non-issue raised by some lawmakers to stoke their base voters.
Republican Rep. Ron Nate earlier this week questioned Boise State University President Marlene Tromp and Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee about cutting programs he found objectionable. He did the same on Friday with Green.
Nate questioned Green about the $140,000 cost of a director of engineering diversity in the university’s College of Engineering. He also questioned the existence of the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity. According to the school’s website, that office “promotes access and inclusion through policy implementation, programs, and services for cultural and diverse populations.”
“I think that’s evidence right there that the University of Idaho is not devoid of critical race theory and social justice programming,” Nate told Green. “Any efforts to reduce expenses on these programs?”
Green cited from the Hawley Troxell report that said there are business reasons why top engineering colleges have directors of engineering diversity programs. He also cited the report that noted Micron Technology, one of Idaho’s largest employers, established an endowment to support diversity and inclusion initiatives at the school.
“Micron appears to be of the opinion that these initiatives and skills are essential to its workers, many of whom it recruits from UI’s College of Engineering,” the report states.
The budget committee will set budgets for higher education institutions later this legislative session, and those decisions will have to be approved by both the House and Senate.
Several lawmakers thanked Green for his work, including Republican Rep. Scott Syme. He told Green he decided to visit all the universities to get a sense of what they were about.
“If you can’t see that the state, the Legislature, supports our universities, then why would companies want to locate here?” he said. “Because we set the tone for what our state is all about, and our universities are a shining example of what we produce here in this state.”