A University Suspended Diversity Courses Because of an Incident That Almost Certainly Didn’t HappenBreaking News
tags: culture war, diversity
A university’s high-profile decision to suspend dozens of sections of a diversity and ethics course two months ago rested on a troubling allegation: that a student had been made to feel “humiliated and degraded” in class “for their beliefs and values.”
An outside law firm investigated the incident, at Boise State University, and a report on its findings was released on Monday. The law firm said that it couldn’t substantiate that such an incident had even taken place.
Here is what happened, according to the report:
On March 15 an unnamed “concerned community leader” contacted the Idaho university about a troubling incident he had seen in a video on a friend’s phone: A white Boise State student, this person said, had been forced to apologize in front of a class for being white or for having white privilege. The student, this person further alleged, had been taunted and called names by other students. The word “stupid” was used, and the student left in tears.
University officials deduced that if the incident were real, it would have happened in a “University Foundations 200" course because the class was discussing structural inequality, economics, and white privilege — topics covered by those mandatory courses on diversity and ethics. The officials hadn’t seen the video themselves, but they said that the nature of the claim and the fact that it had come from the community leader — whom the university’s president, Marlene Tromp, described in an interview with The Chronicle as a “very trusted person” but did not identify — led Tromp to suspend the classes. They resumed a week later, while the investigators did their work.
In their inquiry, students were asked to report any questions or concerns about the UF 200 courses. An email address was set up and shared with the 2,820 students who were enrolled in the courses in the fall or spring. The Boise law firm, Hawley Troxell, monitored the email address’s inbox. Many students praised the courses, and those who raised concerns were invited by the law firm to be interviewed. In the end, the lawyers conducted interviews with 30 students who either had concerns or said they wanted to speak with an investigator.
Not one of the interview subjects said that a student had been asked to apologize for being white and then left the class in tears amid ridicule. “We were unable to substantiate the alleged instance of a student being mistreated in a UF 200 course as described,” the investigators wrote.
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