News Opinions / Op-eds

Goodbye Kustra and Unfair Policies for our Military at Boise State?

Thirty-five years ago, extension classes on Mountain Home Air Force Base and in Mountain Home were provided on a regular basis from Boise State University; the University was quite accommodating at this point in time. Around fifteen years ago, there was a shift in mindset involving supporting these programs. At this point in time, members of the student government estimated that 8-10% of the student population was related to the military by being active service, veterans, R.O.T.C., reserves, or dependents of military people.

Around ten years ago, classes were being cancelled involving veterans and reserve service members and we believe these people were purposefully targeted so they could not get needed registered classes, especially after a class was cancelled on them. This was occurring both on the BSU main campus as well as the extended campuses. Around five years ago, classes on Mountain Home Air Force Base essentially ceased and in Mountain Home, they did cease. When College of Western Idaho was created, I was surprised the Gowen Field extension programs were not pushed upon them. A few years ago, a veterans club existed on the main campus. There is no more veterans club on the main campus today because no university employee will volunteer to be an academic advisor.

Just over fifteen years ago, Boise State University President Charles Ruch was being forced out of office partially as a result of a non-traditional student named Nate Peterson. This was under Governor Kempthorne’s watch. Nate Peterson was elected Student Body President two years in a row and did question the university policies and finances. The hatred was large enough that President Ruch withheld transportation to the Student Body President to go to State Board of Education meetings and Nate Peterson almost had to sue Boise State University to graduate over political reasons. This was when the discrimination against veterans began in earnest, even though Nate was not a veteran but he was a non-traditional student. Veterans are non-traditional students with life experiences outside the university campus borders.

If you are a veteran that wishes to complain to the liaison from the University to the Veterans Administration, I wish you good luck. This person is a University employee that is loyal to the University and not the veterans. This is also the reason why some veterans wondered about the spotty service of the former liaison and the questionable service of the current one. Some of the University abuses included students paying back Pell grants as a result of being recalled back into service, forcing students to retake classes they passed at sister institutions like College of Western Idaho, devalued credit for service in the military when compared to other institutions. They were also being forced to do fool’s errands like prove your citizenship after being a student for years, and pitting both professors and other student groups against veterans.

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For example, one former student remembered a 2010-2011 incident where a Biology Professor in class asked to have the veterans identified and then soon afterwards the professor went onto saying, “Veterans are dangerous.” A more recent incident involved pitting the Muslim Student Alliance against the Veterans. Veterans were getting 4 hours of recognition for Veterans Day and the Muslim Student Alliance was getting 40 hours of recognition and resources for that same week. Furthermore, there has been a purposeful moving of veteran’s recognition events to less visible and less travelled venues away from the other students. These events have been moved from the Quad, to the Student Union Building, and then finally out to the football stadium around 2010. The R.O.T.C. gun salute is a thing of the past as well.

The Boise State University bookstore has also been a matter of contention and entrapment for some Veterans as well. In the early- to mid- 2000’s, the University wanted everything involving money to have their name on it for the sake of control. When veterans had a class cancelled, the Bookstore would not buy those books back at full price; they had to accept a discounted refund price. This was their unwritten policy. In other words, these veterans would lose their benefits while no meaningful services were provided them. I believe the more colloquial term involving the Bookstore and the University would be “theft.” By 2009, the Veterans Administration had instituted a voucher program to protect their students. The bookstore situation also lead to punitive actions against students that were Veterans if they didn’t play along.

Exposing the problems veterans have also exposes many adverse problems other students have. For example, remedial Math 025 has a bimodal distribution with a high fail rate at Boise State University. This means one hump is the result of bad high school education and the other hump results from functional adults that hadn’t needed to use mathematics on a regular basis for over ten years or more. These functional adults in the second hump are non-traditional students. Don’t blame the current and many past Mathematics Department Chairmen; many responsibility aspects of this Math 025 program were taken out of their hands years ago. Around thirteen years ago, Governor Kempthorne accepted a federal appointment; Governor Jim Risch through the State Board of Education asked some questions about Math 025. Unfortunately, Governor Risch was in office for only 9 months. At that point in time, the students were fighting two problems, 1) learning how to do the math and 2) learning how to use an unfriendly computer system, both were big hurdles. Is there any proof Boise State University addressed the problems that would be unique for non-traditional students? Was there any pushes under the Otter Administration to address this? Boise State University charged an additional fee to take Math 025 and has done so for many years since they forced the introduction of the ‘hybrid” format. College of Western Idaho does not have any additional fees. The research provided during the Risch Administration suggested systematic gouging of students was occurring. All these actions occurred under the Kustra Administration of Boise State University.

With respect to party politics, a few people questioned President Kustra letting Obama have a sweetheart deal to use the stadium while running for U.S. President. These allegations came after the Ada County Republican party had some questions on how much they would be charged for using the stadium for the Republican Caucus some years later. What these Republicans didn’t know was the mandated/required sociology class for undergraduates had some questionable reading materials that was more appropriate for electives. Being forced to read a pro-Bill Clinton book is unacceptable. The sociology department got smarter a few years later when they forced students to read about Che Guevara; they left mentioning the Che Guevara book off the syllabus and just mandated the book to be read for a report.

If you believe the student newspaper, the Arbiter, would report on these matters, you are wrong. If a student started to investigate these and similar matters, they would probably be afraid of graduating and keeping their jobs. Some past student reporters have even said so in private. There were some matters they could not avoid. Jonathan Sawmiller made national headlines when Boise State University tried to force him out student government while he was actively deployed in Iraq. Heather Dudney-Hall was not part of student government and was relegated to an opinion piece when she was railroaded out of the school. These were events from around ten years ago. When was the last time the student newspaper posted something extremely critical of the University? Technically, they can’t if you read some of the recent University policy changes and this violates the students “Free Speech” rights.

Nowadays, you might be asked if you have a concealed carry permit in class; this actually violates the state constitution. These student newspaper reporters would be afraid to even report that.

If you examine the University policies closer, the appeals processes are one-sided. The employee-student grievance policy was hidden in the employee section. If professors, employees, or administrators violate the University policies, there is usually no recourse to fix this short of a lawsuit. Don’t expect the student government to help change this. When President Kustra first started, the training for the student government occurred in McCall and Cascade. The Vice-President of Student Affairs told the student government they could not talk to some students. They were told how to play ball as well. When a student government member did talk to one of these “forbidden” people he was not supposed to discuss matters, the student-personnel grievance policy was discovered as well as some bigger problems. When General Counsel Kevin Satterlee was contacted, he wanted to phase out the student-personnel grievance policy. That student government member didn’t have a job two months later. With over twelve years of practice from the University Administration, the student government is ill-equipped to defend their fellow students.

So what can be bigger than Boise State University doesn’t wish to follow its own University policies? If you ask a Boise Police Officer what should you do when multiple University officials have violated state law, he or she earnestly might direct you to the State Board of Education. From 2004- 2014, the State Board of Education could not handle student complaints from Boise State University due to conflict of interest; this problem was created by the Attorney General’s Office under Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. A complaint actually made it to the State Board of Education early on when President Kustra started. The conflict of interest was the Deputy Attorney General for the State Board of Education, Jeff Schrader, was married to the Boise State University Engineering Dean, Cheryl Schrader. The Deputy Attorney General for the State Board of Education actually claimed “conflict of interest.” In one sense, the conflict of interest was finally resolved when this married couple found employment in another state; this only took ten years. The other public colleges and universities found this out at a later point in time why Boise State University was getting special treatment.

When the funding of religious student clubs at Boise State University was being denied, Governor Otter was informed Boise State University was violating a U.S. Supreme Court decision. He didn’t care. This occurred three months before these students sued Boise State University; two months after the suit was filed, the University said they were going to settle and what the University did was unconstitutional. The University acted in bad faith while handling settling this suit; the University was waiting for a U.S. Supreme Court case so they could change the entire funding of students clubs and then go back to defund religious clubs again. It was the Idaho Legislature that came to the rescue. The University administrators lied to these students and their predecessors for six years. Most legislators, both then and now, didn’t know the “conflict of interest” at the State Board of Education existed. A lawsuit was the only route these students had.

Apparently, the current exchange rate for 40 pieces of silver is $5,000,000 in good advertising the state of Idaho receives for having a good Boise State University football team. The State Board of Education and multiple Idaho Governors have complained about why Idahoans will not attend Idaho public colleges and universities. They have themselves to blame when they are unwilling to protect constitutional and contractual rights of adult students. What will the next president of Boise State University be like?

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