On Saturday, Dec. 4, two events were held on the Boise State University campus in support of women in STEM and in higher education, both of which came as a response to the misogynistic comments of Boise State professor Scott Yenor.
The first event, organized by Rep. Brooke Green, asked women and those supporting women to gather around the “B” on the Boise State campus wearing their lab coats, uniforms and sporting their achievements in their career field.
“The message I want to send is ‘we are present,’” Rep. Green said. “We’re your doctors; we’re your attorneys; we’re your stay-at-home moms; we’re your engineers.”
Many of the people in attendance came with their families and displayed signs with statements such as “proud husband of a quarrelsome woman” and “the 1950s called, they want their opinions back.”
Among the attendees were several policymakers and government leaders, including Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, Idaho Sen. Melissa Wintrow, Rep. Ilana Rubel and Boise city council members Holli Woodings and Lisa Sanchez.
One highlight of the event was the announcement of a brand new scholarship meant to support women pursuing an education in STEM. The scholarship was created by senior marketing major Ally Orr, who got the idea from a tweet under Yenor’s initial response video.
“When Scott made his comments I felt like we needed to do something and channel our energy into something productive,” Orr said.
Instead of their initial $10,000 goal, Orr hopes that by raising $25,000 the money will go towards an endowed scholarship, encouraging women to pursue their chosen career fields for many years to come. So far, Orr has managed to raise over $31,000.
“I feel very dissatisfied that the university hasn’t supported us more and sent out more things to tell us that we do belong here,” Orr said. “In a perfect world, professors like Scott who make their students feel little wouldn’t be teaching at their universities.”
According to Orr, events like the one held by Rep. Green are always a step in the right direction.
“I think this event was perfect,” Orr said. “We showed up and it was done in 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes were so impactful because you could see the amount of people here that support women of all ages and had amazing signs and this is the type of support that we need to see.”
The second event was a student-run community space hosted by The Anti-Racism Collective, a community recently established by Boise State’s Sociology Department. Held in the Boise State Quad, this event featured several guest speakers including Boise State students, alumni, professors and Boise residents unaffiliated with the university.
According to one of their Instagram posts, this alternate event was meant to function closer to a traditional protest and substitute the lack of speakers at the neighboring event.
“We will be on the quad … for those that do want to speak out, connect with community, be in solidarity, and call for accountability,” the Instagram post read.
Many of the speakers called for Boise State to take administrative action against Yenor, either through an investigation or a termination of his contract with the university.
“I encourage Boise State to please investigate and fire [Yenor] unless you want a bunch of pissed-off alumni who do not want to donate to this university anymore,” one anonymous speaker said. “If he’s not fired by the spring commencement, I’m not walking.”
Katie Cikaitoga, a 2020 Boise State graduate with a degree in political science, echoed the students’ sentiments for an investigation.
“I believe that certain people, now that they’re thinking about this man, probably can attribute a lot of their lower grades to progressive ideas in papers and homework,” Cikaitoga said. “This is not pre-civil rights. We have a right to be here. Everybody has a right to be here.”
While the majority of comments made during the speeches were focused on the gravity of Yenor’s comments and called for his termination, many of the speakers also focused on the bigger picture of inequality and mistreatment that women face in the state of Idaho.
One such speaker criticized the university’s inaction when it comes to reporting stalking, sexual abuse and other dangerous behavior on campus.
“BSU needs to commit to real viable action rather than just continuous damage control via emails,” the student said. “We deserve to feel safe on this campus.”
The protest ended with a chant led by one of the students, in which the crowd echoed back the phrase, “Say it loud, say it clear. Yenor is not welcome here.”
As Boise State continues to face pressure from multiple sides of the Yenor debate, the Anti-Racism Collective encourages students to speak out about their experiences and seek help if they need it. Lists of resources were provided to students following the protest.
“What a lot of people don’t get is that First Amendment rights means freedom of speech, but it doesn’t mean freedom from consequences of your actions,” said first-year sociology major Morgan Cardoza, one of the speakers at the protest. “Anyone that’s pro-freedom has to be pro-‘women in STEM.’”