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History of Student Equity

The Little Red House

Back in the early 70s, along the south side of University Drive, there was once a neighborhood of tree-lined streets.  The Black Student Union gathered for social events in a little red house on Euclid Avenue. It was also a place to discuss racism and civil rights, a comfort zone and a rallying point during difficult times. The house became known as the Black Cultural Center, entirely operated by students of Boise State University.

2256 University Drive

In 1974, the Black Cultural Center moved into a house on University Drive northwest of the Administration Building (now the Brady Parking Garage), and was renamed the Minority Center to more accurately reflect the student organizations who met there: Black Student Union, Hui-O-Aloha, Dama Soghop, MEChA, and Club Español.

Students mostly used the house to hold meetings and hang out, but eventually, with assistance from Special Student Services, the Center would evolve into a place where ethnic minorities could benefit from programs and services that would help meet their academic, social and cultural needs.  Tutoring programs were established and goals were set to bridge the communication gap between students and the university, and to incorporate Black, Chicano, Native American and Asian cultures into the curriculum.

Before moving into its present location on the second floor of the Student Union Building, the Center would relocate twice and undergo several name changes. It would also continue to evolve, offering better opportunities and improved services and programs to students who would eventually come from all over the world.

A Place for Everyone

From that little red house, and years of hard work and dedication from many students, faculty and staff, ideas grew into award-winning programs, crowd gathering events, and university-wide campaigns focused on promoting cultural understanding and the importance of racial harmony.

Today, Boise State’s Student Equity Center is a vital campus resource financially supported by the university. It’s not only used by students, but faculty and staff as well. It’s a place for everyone—black and white, Latino and Native American, Asian and European.

Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Celebration

A significant achievement for Multicultural Student Services was the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Celebration (MLK). Originally focused on racial issues, the week-long event has expanded through the years to address all issues regarding human rights. Educational programming includes workshops, films, lectures, exhibits, political demonstrations and internationally known speakers.

Each year the celebration underscores Boise State University’s commitment to upholding the values of respect and civility, encouraging all citizens to be responsible and fair. The MLK Celebration also helped pave the way to the passage of the Idaho law that granted a statewide holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Day.

One Decade at a Time

The timeline below traces Multicultural Student Services’ progress and Boise State’s continuing efforts to build communication and understanding among all people, and to promote and preserve cultural diversity.


1970-74: The Black Student Union meets in a little red house on Euclid Avenue that becomes known as the Black Cultural Center.

1972-73: Special Student Services Committee forms to develop programs and services to assist groups with “special needs,” underrepresented people that include “Blacks, Chicanos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, handicapped, veterans, foreign students and the disadvantaged (i.e., single parents and women).”

1974-75: Boise State College becomes Boise State University; the Black Cultural Center moves to 2256 University Drive and is renamed the Multi-Ethic Center; the Center is considered “an extension of the Student Union.” Hours of operation are irregular, as work-study students must accommodate their class schedules.

1975-76: The Multicultural Board is established by ASBSU (Senate Act # 15) as a central organization to develop, coordinate, budget and implement educational, cultural, social and humanitarian programs and services.

1979-80: Multi-Ethnic Center is renamed the Multicultural Center


1980-81: University Child Care Services moves into 2256 University Drive, sharing space with the Multicultural Center.

1982-83: The Center, along with Child Care Services, moves into the student organizational space of the newly completed Pavilion (now Taco Bell Arena).

1986-87: Under “Student Organizations” in The Student Handbook, a new category appears: “Cultural” replaces “Special Interest,” listing ethnic minorities separate from handicapped, veterans, foreign students, single parents and women.

1988-89: The Black Student Union leads a rally on the Business Building Plaza to persuade Boise State and the state of Idaho to honor the federally recognized Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
University President Dr. John Keiser and ASBSU President Jeff Russell form a committee of students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community to help develop a celebration that would not only honor King, but also emphasize human rights for everyone.

1989-90: The first MLK Human Rights Celebration is held and partially funded by the student senate; Martin Luther King III is the keynote speaker.
On April 10, Gov. Cecil D. Andrus signs the bill granting a statewide holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Day on the third Monday of January, making Idaho 47th in the nation to honor the slain civil rights leader.


1990-91: The Center moves out of the Pavilion and into the SUB Annex II across the street from the Student Union (next to the Lincoln Parking Garage); first march to state capitol during MLK Human Rights Celebration; Gaylord Walls is hired as the minority student assistance coordinator for Minority Affairs with Special Student Services. He receives $1,500 from Vice President of Student Affairs David S. Taylor for Center operations.

1991-92: According to documents, the names Multi-Ethnic Center and Multicultural Center are used interchangeably until 2003.

1992-93: MLK Celebration wins Bronze CASE Award (Council for the Advancement & Standards in Education) for outstanding student involvement programs.

1994-95: The Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Board is established.

1996-97: MLK Celebration wins second Bronze CASE Award.

1997-98: In the Student Handbook under Student Organizations, “Ethnic” replaces the word “Cultural.”  The number of ethnic clubs increases from six to eight.

1998-99: MLK Celebration wins Gold CASE Award, taking top honors for student involvement programs. The MLK campaign wins first place for the ACUI National Design Competition.  Nearly 1,300 people attend the keynote address delivered by Dr. Michael Dyson, and more than 4,500 people participate in the weeklong celebration.


2000-01: Students no longer run the Center, which is institutionally recognized and receives thousands of dollars in funding to support programs and services; administrative support shifts from Special Student Services to Student Union and Activities; Tam Dinh becomes the first, full-time director. Paid staff includes a graduate assistant and a program director. Ethnic student enrollment numbers increase to 1,745 (1,514 in the previous year).

2002-03: The Center officially becomes the Cultural Center; orientation programs are offered to new minority students; Pow Wow celebrates 10 years; MLK moves to the Pavilion to accommodate 2,500 people for the keynote address delivered by Danny Glover and Bill Fletcher.

2003-04: Rosario Parker becomes the new director; Center moves to the second floor of the SUB, an increase of space from 600 to 1,600 square feet; faculty senate officially approves the diversity requirement for the core curriculum; State Board of Education approves a $1.50 student fee to support the annual MLK Human Rights Celebration; the number of ethnic student organizations is 13; International Food, Song & Dance Festival celebrates 25 years.

2004-05: Campuswide campaign “Stop Hate” is held to communicate values and civility, and show the university’s commitment to zero tolerance of bigotry and discrimination following a threat made to a student based on sexual orientation; the Cultural Center hosts the “Racism and Immigration Forum.”

2005-06: Diverse Perspectives Film Series begins; Tunnel of Oppression comes to campus, offering the Boise State community and the general public the unique experience of “walking in someone else’s shoes.”

2006-07: Student fee allocation is initiated to help support the Center (50 cents for a full-time student, five cents for part-time); first department MySpace account is created on campus, providing students with a private social network to discuss difficult topics and voice concerns freely without fear; HERO Awards are presented to recognize contributions to the Cultural Center. Ethnic minority student enrollment numbers continue to rise—2,174 compared to 2,007 in the previous year.

2008-09: Full-time director Francisco Salinas is hired for the newly established office of Student Diversity and Inclusion; The Cultural Center no longer operates through Student Union & Activities and begins operating through Student Life under the Division of Student Affairs. The term “non-dominant” replaces “minority” to reflect more clearly how it is power dynamics and not population numbers that determine a dominant culture.

2009-10: The International Student Services Center is established and moves in next to the Cultural Center, serving as a liaison between faculty, staff and international students. Spring enrollment numbers reveal that 12.9 percent of Boise State students are of ethnic diversity.

2010-11: The Cultural Center is renamed Multicultural Student Services and is housed, along with International Student Services, in the Student Diversity Center.  Fall enrollment numbers reveal that 13.5 percent of Boise State students are of ethnic diversity (2,693 students), and international students represent nearly two percent of non-residents.

Thanks to the many people who helped to create the timeline for the history of Multicultural Student Services: Alan Virta and his staff, Special Collections, Albertsons Library; David Taylor; Gaylord Walls; Greg Brown; Billy Handcock; Tam Dinh; Melissa Wintrow; Rob Meyer; and Sandra Friedly.