Large group of legislators asks University of Idaho to end threat over diversity training


Gov. Butch Otter's executive order asking for an accounting of federal funds by state agencies is due to the Division of Financial Management by Sept. 2.

In a letter obtained by IdahoReporter.com, a group of 20 Republican legislators from the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate have asked the University Idaho College of Law to ease up on threats they believe it’s making over diversity training slated for next week on its Boise and Moscow campuses.

The group includes House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Eagle.

In the message to Dean Don Burnett, dean of the law school, the lawmakers decried not the diversity training course, but a section of a message about instructional sessions they believe could be construed as a threat.

In a Jan. 22 message, the school informed students they would be required to take a course called “Dialogues on Professionalism and Diversity” as an extra part of their legal studies. Included in the message is the following paragraph, with which lawmakers are taking exception:

Roll call will be taken. Attending students will have a certificate of participation placed in their student record files. Any student who does not participate, and has not been excused, will have a memorandum to that effected placed in his or her student record file.

The legislators believe that part of the message is an unwarranted threat.

“Though this is an event of importance to the university and the College of Law, such importance cannot serve to justify threats to place into a student’s permanent record a letter indicating that they did not attend a workshop on professionalism and diversity,” the group wrote in the letter. “The implication of such a letter in a student file gives the impression that a particular student did not care to attend such an event because they disagreed with the subject matter or did not find value in such things as professionalism and diversity.”

The lawmakers slammed the school for making the effort to make students appear bigoted. “As a publicly funded institution, using the threat of a memo suggesting clearly that a student is unprofessional, bigoted or both for not attending an extracurricular activity not part of the university’s course catalog is simply unacceptable,” they said.

The group did not ask the university to stop the classes, but did request that the non-attendance letters not be put in students’ files.

Ryan Sargent, student body president of the law school, told IdahoReporter.com Tuesday that the non-attendance letters could affect a student’s career. While students can keep their student records private, the attorney licensing board, known as the bar, must see the files in order to certify new lawyers.

Sargent says the letters will make students look bad. “It will make us look bigoted,” he said, adding that he isn’t necessarily opposed to the content of the diversity courses. Sargent simply wishes the school wouldn’t have threatened students and would be more cooperative in the process. He says the school has been unresponsive to student concerns.

The school has not responded to a request for comment on the issue.

See the letter below: 

 

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Some 20 lawmakers are concerned about the school's handling of the training., Some 20 lawmakers are concerned about the school's handling of the training.
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18 Comments

  1. Lawstudent2

    Absolutely not. Particularly not the students he appointed to the diversity committee that created the training.

    And 21/105 legislatures isn’t really a “large group.”

  2. LawStudent2

    Dean Burnett sent out his response today, maybe in the interest of good reporting that should be published too, since it seems that both the legislators and this publication were a little under-informed by the students behind the complaint.

  3. ReggieH

    This article is slanted and only represents one point of view. The vocal group of angry students who contacted the legislature do not represent the law school. If anything, as a current student, I have noticed that the original backlash against the backlash seems larger than the original backlash itself. As this story grows, it is becoming increasingly clear that this whole thing is becoming an embarrassment to the College of Law . . . not because we are having a mandatory diversity training–but because we have to.

    Check out this article (http://abovethelaw.com/2012/02/can-a-law-school-force-you-to-be-racially-sensitive/) from a very popular national law school blog for a more even-handed account of this story.

  4. Uidaho

    This is one of many meetings they make us go to. While get upset over this one? Just go to the meeting, or if you have something you really need to do then get it excused.

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  6. law student

    It is tragic that our Student Body President took it upon himself to project a very small opinion of a minority of students in such a way that makes the rest of us, and our institution look bigoted, and unprofessional. He appointed the student members of the diversity committe, if he wanted to have control over the political ideologies of the people he put into the positions he should have asked more questions…its a good thing he didnt. There have been calls for his impeachment. I’d vote him out.

  7. fortboise

    So, did the 20 legislators have any more of the story than Idaho Reporter was able to dig up, I wonder? Thanks for the link to abovethelaw.com, Reggie. Fills in the blanks.

  8. Dustin Hurst

    Dear UI law students (and old blogger Fort Boise),

    Forgive me for not including the dean’s response. I had a deadline and the college of law didn’t respond in time. I am planning a follow up tomorrow with the message to lawmakers.

  9. Osprey

    It appears the threat is coming from the legislators who are using a time-honored technique of “ganging up” where it’s 20 versus one. The legislators also misconstrue a basic measure of accountability, keeping track of attendance in this case, as a threat.

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  12. Candor

    “Diversity Training” is usually code for victim status indoctrination. The word “diversity” is usually reserved for giving preference to historically oppressed racial groups regardless of real discrimination. As someone who has spent the majority of my working life on college campuses, real diversity is what is really lacking at institutions of higher learning. There is real discrimination and intimidation of ideological and religious minorities and I guarantee this so called “diversity training” will do nothing to to protect conservatives, Christians or anyone else daring to challenge the left-wing orthodoxy of academia.

  13. Out sider

    @candor
    I really don’t think the diversity training is designed to protect conservative white males….. That is the exact group is the reason the diversity training was needed in the first place

  14. Cro-magnon Man

    @ Out Sider Your comment “That is the exact group is the reason the diversity training was needed in the first place”

    Wow, that is the most bigoted thing I have heard. Please defend how you can point to one group and make a general statement like that and you not be the one who needs the training.

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