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A Place for Ideas

Boise State leaders often get asked about why certain books are being read on campus or why certain speakers are being heard on campus. The questions come from across the political spectrum, because as a public university we have a longstanding dedication to the rights of free expression and free speech. In fact, the First Amendment forbids public entities from restricting or regulating expression because of its message or ideas. This is a charge Boise State takes very seriously.

Boise State has hosted political speakers ranging from Rand Paul to Bernie Sanders. Our first-year students all read, dissect and discuss a series of readings from authors as politically varied as Charles Alan Murray and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Greg Lukianoff and Michael Pollan. The diversity of ideas, books and speakers across classes, student groups and organizations, faculty discussion groups, community events and more is truly vast.

As such, there isn’t a single reading, a single speaker or a single idea that defines what Boise State or any public university “endorses” or “stands for.” By constitutional directive and by their own state-driven missions, public universities are intended to be crucibles of open and effective dialogue on all ideas.

It is incumbent on a public university to not only provide the knowledge and skills students will need in the workplace of the future, but to equip them to think critically about the world around them, to evaluate and understand new information, and to communicate their own ideas and conclusions effectively — that is what will prepare them to become business, community and civic leaders. In short, we believe a university’s charge is not to teach its students what to think, but to teach them how to think.

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