Dozens of Boise State students, faculty and community members gathered at the Morrison Center to witness President Marlene Tromp give her first State of the University address on August 21.
The event was opened by the Boise State Trombone Choir. Led by conductor Sarah Paris, the group performed two selections before turning the floor over to President Tromp.
Tromp began her address by speaking about the ambience of the world today, which she considers to be inconsistent.
“It is a politically volatile moment characterized by ideological divisiveness and polarization,” Tromp said. “It is a moment in which it is a sign of bravery even to speak.”
Tromp expanded this idea by saying that she hoped to honor the bravery exhibited by the Boise State community and people in all Idaho regions by speaking from the heart.
“This seems especially important to me because you and the State Board of Education gave me the honor of leading this pathbreaking university,” Tromp said. “And I thank you for that.”
As a former faculty member of the University of California Santa Cruz, Tromp recognizes the impact that public universities have on higher education.
“Public universities have a special and vital mission to educate the people of the state,” Tromp said. “Public higher education was built for the expressed purpose of transforming people’s lives.”
With this ideology in mind, Tromp alluded that being Boise State’s president is an incredibly honorific mission, and that she intends to maintain Boise State as a place where difficult yet intelligent conversations will take place.
“In this vexing political climate, public universities must remain spaces where complex discussions can take place, where difficult issues can be explored, where conflicting ideas and opinions can be heard, considered and respected, where the smallest groups can be seen, and where underrepresented ideas can be spoken,” Tromp said. “I believe that Boise State University can become a national leader in meaningful problem solving across political divides.”
This statement caused joyous applause from the audience, suggesting that audience members were offering their support to Tromp’s initiatives to encourage conversation at the university level, despite the undetermined future.
“Universities are closing and failing across the country,” Tromp said. “Of the approximately 4300 universities and colleges in the nation, 800 are at risk of closing and 80 have faced consolidation from other institutions in just the last few years. 50% of those that have been consolidated in the publics.”
Boise State has never documented a possibility of closing its doors. While university affairs are seemingly in order, audience members couldn’t help but wonder how President Tromp would ensure that this public university will not become part of that number.
Despite the shocking statistics, Tromp remained hopeful that Boise State would not contribute to the data by ensuring that all ideas on how to maintain a successful university are heard and considered.
“Surely, this is the very foundation of our mission,” Tromp said. “As a university, if we aren’t engaging openly in and fostering important dialogue, striving for what is just and right and good, we may cause irreparable harm to the things that matter the most to us. The world, my colleagues, is changing.”
Regardless of the changing world, Tromp believes the role of higher education has the same goal.
“We have so many responsibilities as a university to be sure, and we do them all so well,” Tromp said. “But if universities aren’t meant to be bringers of light, then who is?”