Boise State University President Bob Kustra has announced the launch of the Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative — inspired and generously funded by a gift and a challenge left to Boise State by the longtime human rights activist who died in February.
The initiative will offer human rights education and teach smart advocacy skills on campus. It eventually will include an academic certificate in human rights issues and advocacy, as well as offer events open to all in the community. It will be sponsored by the School of Public Service and led by history professor Jill Gill.
“Marilyn Shuler exemplified smart, tangible and perseverant advocacy for human rights in Idaho,” said Gill. “She unified, transformed, mobilized and inspired individuals, while working to make society’s systems more just. What an exciting opportunity we have to help support the next wave of change agents dedicated to that good work.”
The initiative will become a significant part of the university’s overall efforts to host and foster civic discourse and discussion, Kustra said.
“Public universities have always been and will long remain a marketplace of ideas, where constitutionally protected free speech is exercised with regularity,” he said. “But that means our campuses will have to be on the highest alert for the ideological clashes that will continue to take place, as this marketplace of ideas at times becomes what Barack Obama once called a ‘battlefield of ideas.’
“We must endeavor to preserve and celebrate the freedom of speech that separates our country from so many others, while fostering non-violent discourse and dignity for all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors — by creating an atmosphere where ideas and ideals can flourish and no one feels threatened or unsafe.”
One of the initiative’s first events will be a two-part, special event on Oct. 26. Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel, two longtime leaders of Coeur d’Alene’s award-winning Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, will share lessons and effective grassroots strategies they’ve learned from taking on the Aryan Nations for more than 20 years — a fight that eventually bankrupted the Aryan Nations in a $6.3 million lawsuit in 2000.
There will be two events on campus, one titled “Social Justice Requires Courage and Action: Campuses, College Students and Grassroots Organizing,” which is geared toward the campus audience, and “From Hate to Hope: How Idahoans Defeated White Nationalism – and How You Can Too,” which focuses on a wider audience. Times and locations are still to come.
Shuler, for whom the initiative is named, was the longtime director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission and a Boise State alumna. In addition, she co-founded, built and promoted the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, was a founding member of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, supported the development of the Idaho Black History Museum, founded the Peaceful Settlements Foundation and established the John Shuler Fund at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in support of foster care.
Shuler earned a master of public administration degree from Boise State in 1978 and was presented with an honorary doctorate in 2014.