Diversity and inclusivity have been a strong point of conversation on Boise State campus this semester. With programs such as black graduation and rainbow graduation coming under fire, campus members have been forced to ask why ideas such as these are important. These programs are designed to ensure that students who identify with groups traditionally oppressed in systems like that of the university are recognized and allowed to celebrate one another’s achievements, despite the exclusion they may have felt throughout their university experience.
Many have not experienced the marginalization these students have and, consequently, do not understand the importance of inclusion efforts at a university.
Just as we must ask whether these lawmakers understand the experiences of marginalized students — and whether they are even putting in the effort to understand — we must also ask if the leaders on our own campus have been asked to understand those experiences.
It is clear that, for many students and student organizations, inclusivity is a high priority on campus. However, campus environments must be altered to decentralize focus from just the most privileged students in the class to a broader focus that deliberately includes students of all identities and backgrounds.
Though this may sound easy enough, marginalized students are continually delegitimized in Boise State’s classrooms. One such way that students are often marginalized is through microaggressions, one of the most misunderstood forms of prejudice.
For example, when a faculty member says something like “Americans are all a part of the same ethnicity,” or “There is no homoeroticism in this text,” in a text where homoeroticism is evident, students may feel powerless to contradict the professor’s authority, particularly if they don’t feel that those statements were made with an intention to exclude any class members.
When hearing such statements, a student who identifies within a marginalized ethnic group, a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ or a student that identifies with both will feel that their world view is not validated by the institution, because ultimately, faculty members represent Boise State’s values.
As of today, the only training on inclusivity provided to faculty or staff is paid only with a small stipend and is typically scheduled during the school week. Though the fairly new program should not be demonized for lacking the funding or the support to make it mandatory, it is also important to recognize that students will continue to feel ostracized and unwelcome on Boise State’s campus until a change is made.
Boise State is responsible for ensuring that all of its representatives understand that there are numerous students on our campus who do not come from the same background as them. Environments and situations have to be knowledgeably crafted to accommodate all students, to ensure their success alongside their more privileged peers.
“You can see people drowning in the river and immediately start trying to save them, but sooner or later someone is going to have to hike upriver and see what’s making them fall in,” said Tai Simpson, former president of the Intertribal Native Council at Boise State.