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Rescind the offer of speaking at the Montana Tech commencement to Susan Gianforte and Greg Gianforte.

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To:      Chancellor Don Blackketter, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

           President Royce Engstrom, The University of Montana

           Paul Tuss, Interim Chair, Montana Board of Regents

We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed by the news that the administrators of Montana Tech have chosen Greg and Susan Gianforte as the 2014 commencement speakers. Their creationist beliefs, homophobic activism, and support for draining money from public schools to fund private Christian schools all make Gianfortes a poor choice as commencement speakers.

Montana Tech is part of the public Montana University System with a strong focus on engineering and science. The school serves the citizens of Montana by offering educational opportunities for all. The school is committed to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While the Gianfortes have been successful business people and have contributed to the economic growth of the state, however they also publicly profess troubling views on public education, science, and civil rights. They are activists regarding social and political issues; a few examples include:

Replacing public education with private education

The Gianfortes have close ties to the Montana Family Foundation, which supports "School Choice" – using public funds to support private education.Greg Gianforte strongly supports "School Choice" at a personal level as well.

References:;      movement/article_0b204b88-8f8d-11e2-b63a-0019bb2963f4.html

Promoting creationism in direct opposition to science

Greg Gianforte has provided significant financial support to the dinosaur museum in Glendive, Montana. The museum promotes a faith-based creationist view, including the belief that the earth is about 6,000 years old. The museum opposes the science of evolution and claims that reputable museums presenting the theory of evolution are engaged in a “sinister conspiracy.”

References: ; Sky Dem/ .

Denying human / civil rights

The Gianforte Family Foundation funds a number of anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Heritage Foundation.  The Montana Tech press release included Susan Gianforte’s role as chair of the Montana Family Foundation, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, as one of her accomplishments (see  Focus on the Family has, among other things, defended “conversion therapy” for gay persons and criticized the de-listing of homosexuality as a mental illness (something which happened over 40 years ago), calling it “largely politically-driven.”  This treatment is criticized as pseudo-scientific and psychologically harmful by the World Health Organization and other professional psychology groups.

References: ;; ""Therapies" to change sexual orientation lack medical justification and threaten health". Pan American Health Organization (2012).

Susan Gianforte recently testified at a public hearing in Bozeman, encouraging business owners, like herself, to go to prison rather than adhere to any legal ordinance assuring gay equality. This is flat-out promoting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

References: ; .

We strongly believe that their extremism makes them a poor choice as commencement speakers at a publicly funded, science-based institution that promotes diversity and guarantees not to discriminate based on sexual orientation. We do not oppose the Gianfortes’ right to publicly support a social-political agenda of their choice, but we do oppose Montana Tech legitimizing the Gianfortes’ agenda.

Many of the undersigned are Montana Tech students, faculty, or alumni. We the undersigned care deeply about public education, the legitimacy of science, and human rights. We do not want our respected university to lend its good name and credibility to those who are dedicated to undermining public education, the legitimacy of science, and civil rights.

If the Gianfortes remain as the chosen speakers for commencement, Montana Tech damages its image and credibility by linking the institution with the Gianfortes’ ideology. The Gianfortes public words and deeds demonstrate contempt for public education, an anti-scientific attitude, and a lack of respect for gay persons, all which are in opposition to the professed mission and vision of Montana Tech and the Montana University System.

We therefore urge Chancellor Blackketter, President Engstrom, and the Montana University System Board of Trustees to immediately rescind the offer of speaking at the Montana Tech commencement to Susan Gianforte and Greg Gianforte. As an alternative, we could invite our graduating students to speak about their experience at Montana Tech and their personal hopes for meeting the changing needs of society, as indicated in the school’s mission statement.

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