Campus ConversationGuest AuthorsOpinion

Opinion: Is Boise State prioritizing profits over students’ health and safety?

Photo by Claire Keener
This article is a collaborative submission from two anonymous student guest authors.

Throughout our time at Boise State University, we have felt, for the most part, cared for and supported by our professors and administrators. However, this feeling has slowly ceased over the past year.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit everyone hard in some way, and it certainly put a dent in our education systems nationwide. But never in our lives did we think our health and safety would be sacrificed for the sake of athletic or social events.

On Sept. 17, Boise State University sent out a press release announcing that those attending the home football game had to show proof of a first-dose vaccination or a negative COVID test result. This came after extremely low mask-wearing during the first home football game, despite a campus-wide mask requirement in indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. The announcement, signed by Boise State president Dr. Marlene Tromp, among others, was essentially revoked the following week. No requirements were asked of attendees of future football games. 

Homecoming parade, 2021
[Photo of attendees at the 2021 Homecoming Parade on Oct. 2]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

This was done in an effort to preserve COVID-19 tests in the area, but to us, something more had to be behind this new statement. 

Treefort held its ninth music festival two weeks ago over the span of five days. Vaccination records or a negative COVID-19 test were required from those who wished to attend the festival. 

So why did Boise State revoke their same requirement? Were they getting backlash from the first announcement regarding the requirement of vaccination or negative test? Or did they just back out, knowing the demographic of this state, in order to maximize profits?

In comparison, the environment at Treefort felt significantly safer, even with the festival’s large audience. Everyone in attendance was either vaccinated or had shown a negative COVID test, and people were actively complying with the mask regulations.

After Treefort, Parent and Family Weekend was quickly approaching, and families would soon be swarming our campus — some of whom might have divided opinions on the COVID-19 pandemic, and further, the vaccine and mask mandates that controversially accompanies it. 

Students and staff have the autonomous decision to attend these sporting events at their own risk, no matter their vaccination status. However, there is something to be said about the way these events are held.  

Being vaccinated, I felt secure participating in events throughout the weekend with my family. However, going to my first Boise State football game of the season felt surreal.

The irony of this crowd in relation to the pandemic’s severity in Idaho was comical. Not one person was wearing a mask in the rows surrounding my family and I. Instead of enforcing mask-wearing protocols, the university awarded people who happened to be “properly wearing a mask over their nose and mouth.” 

So, that’s where we’re at now. Incentivizing a few folks out of tens of thousands in an effort to increase mask compliance instead of enforcing something that will keep people safe.

Boise State is unfairly profiting off the student body, staff and alumni population — while hospitals a few blocks away are filled to the breaking point with sick, unvaccinated COVID patients —  and the university’s policy insinuates that nothing can get in the way of football.

On the other hand, student social events like Bronco Night have been canceled — rightly so — due to low rates of mask-wearing.

In the 2018-19 school year, our last “normal” year before the pandemic, the Bronco football team accumulated a total of $5,662,146 from ticket sales. The football team generated $24,683,041 in total for the 2018-19 season.

As students at Boise State, we often pay our tuition and go on our way without stopping to think where our money is going. This also applies to where the university is getting its money. 

Boise State gets millions of philanthropic donations every year: 83,000 gifts from 24,500 individuals, corporations and foundations. The school increased its support by more than $7.6 million so far this year, making the institution’s philanthropic support this year $41.8 million.

Donors have given $8.6 million for immediate use, and $2.2 million of it went to student-athletes. The donations granted about 63% of students financial help. 

The university will soon be holding its fourth annual Bronco Giving Day, which is a 36-hour event where donors can choose which area of the university they want to give to.

The Lyle Smith Society was created to help provide student-athletes with resources to succeed in the classroom, on the field and after graduation. Over the past two years, the society has brought in a whopping $5.5 million to Boise State athletics.

These two events alone contribute to the whirlwind of unnecessary athletic donation buckets that the university continues to profit off of every year and indicates that the reason for the university’s hypocrisy and carelessness is simply to make more money.  

As we’ve seen, there is a whole world out there dedicated to putting millions of dollars into student athletics.

I cannot deny that sports are important to the school as well as the athletes and I still enjoy watching the Broncos each weekend. However, sporting events and alumni donations are still crutching Boise State’s fiscal profits and they are jeopardizing the health and wellness of the student body.

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