Explanation behind the naming of the "Gianforte Academic Center"

WHAT THIS IS ABOUT

We alumni, students, and faculty, are concerned about the implications of accepting a donation from Greg Gianforte and naming a building after him when he has acted antithetically to the Stevens strategic plan and mission statement.

We request the administration publicly explain their reasoning behind accepting the donation and honoring Greg Gianforte in light of what he stands for, condemn the discriminatory rhetoric of the groups who received donations from Greg Gianforte, and reaffirm their commitment, in actions and not just words, to be an inclusive campus regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

WHAT HAPPENED
On December 13th of last year it was announced that Greg Gianforte, a Stevens Institute of Technology alumnus, made a $10 million donation to Stevens.

This donation along with past donations has resulted in the administration’s decision to name two new academic buildings the “Gianforte Academic Center.” Construction is currently planned to be completed by 2019.[1]

HOWEVER, public records of emails indicate Gianforte had actively pursued an agenda in Montana that opposed legal protections for LGBTQ people.

Gianforte led the fight against Bozeman’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO) which protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations[2]

  • Gianforte: the NDO was “attempting to solve a problem that does not exist in Bozeman.”[3]
  • Gianforte: the NDO would give “sexual predators” access to women’s bathrooms.[4]
  • Gianforte: “Homosexual advocates try to argue businesses are leery of locating in towns that aren’t friendly to homosexuals. I believe the opposite is truer.”[5]
  • Proposed four amendments, one of which included “adding wording that excludes bathrooms and locker rooms from public accommodations”[6] and that specifically includes “ex-homosexuality” as a sexual orientation.[7]

And although Greg Gianforte has donated to many charitable causes, he has also donated significant amounts to anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, creationist, and anti-climate change groups.

Gianforte donated to anti-LGBTQ groups, anti-abortion group, and a hate group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (IRS records ‘05-’14)[8, 9]

  • $898,557 to Montana Family Foundation which “led the effort to pass Montana’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.”[10]
  • $525,000 to Focus on the Family which states that “homosexual behavior violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality… we affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity.”[11]
  • $58,500 to Alliance Defending Freedom which urged the Supreme Court to “uphold the freedom of states to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”[12]
  • $37,500 to New Jersey Family Policy Council which opposes same-sex marriage and opposed the NJ ban on sexual orientation change efforts; stated that “what [Chris Christie] has done is exactly what he was afraid to do, which is exposing children to health risks, because there are health risks with homosexuality.”[13]
  • $24,000 to Family Research Council whose founder supported Uganda’s right to carry out the death penalty for homosexuality as “efforts to uphold moral conduct”[14] and which is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. States that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural...”[15]
  • $3,000 to American Center for Law & Justice which supported DOMA, lobbied in Zimbabwe to outlaw same sex marriage and keep homosexuality a criminal activity there, and lobbied in Kenya to remove an exception for abortion when the mother’s life is at risk.[16]

Gianforte supported the Creationist Museum and a foundation that denies consensus on climate change (IRS records ‘08-’14)[17, 18]

  • $60,000 to Foundation Advancing Creation Truth whose founder stated that “we approach evolution on the basis that it’s basically not possible. There is no scientific proof whatsoever that evolution has ever taken place. There’s also no scientific proof that creation has taken place because they both are faith-based.”[19]
  • $8,000 to Heritage Foundation which states in a report that “the only consensus over the threat of climate change that seems to exist these days is that there is no consensus.”[20]

WHY THIS IS BAD
Stevens appears hypocritical when it chooses to honor Greg Gianforte, as his actions are antithetical to what Stevens values.

Stevens values diversity.
Stevens values scientific thinking.
Stevens values its reputation.

Within the Strategic Plan, multiple mentions are made of the need to diversify both the student body and the faculty.[21] However, the steps taken[22] have not been enough.

  • In Fall 2015, Stevens ranked 29th among 350 engineering schools in the percentage of tenured/tenure-tracked women engineering faculty (27.3 percent). Faculty from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups remains low.[23]
  • In 2015, the Stevens undergraduate student body was 70% male and 66% white. These numbers have not shifted much since 2011 when the undergraduate student body was 75% male and 59% white.[24]
  • In terms of of our peers,[25] Stevens ranks last in diversity both in terms of percentage of female undergraduate students and percentage of minority undergraduate students.[26]

Honoring Greg Gianforte by naming two buildings after him would be a step backwards in becoming a more diverse and inclusive university.

Stevens plans on developing its brand as a culturally diverse and intellectually free university while attracting innovation and socially-aware entrepreneurship.[27] Associating Stevens with Greg Gianforte will do the opposite.

We expect the Stevens administration to provide a statement.

  1. Explaining their reasoning behind naming the new academic center after Gianforte,
  2. Condemning the discriminatory rhetoric of the anti-LGBTQ groups who received donations from Greg Gianforte,
  3. Reaffirming their commitment, in actions and not just words, to be an inclusive campus regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Talk about this with your friends, professors, and administrators. Sign this petition with a comment about what you think.

Contact our leaders and administrators

  • President Farvardin
    Email: president@stevens.edu / nariman.farvardin@stevens.edu
    Phone: 201.216.5213
  • Marybeth Murphy, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs
    Email: Marybeth.Murphy@stevens.edu
    Phone: 201.216.3469
  • Susan Staffin Metz, Executive Director of Diversity & Inclusion
    Email: Susan.Metz@stevens.edu
    Phone: 201.216.5245
  • You can write in an e-mail:
    My name is [NAME] and I’m a [CURRENT STUDENT/ALUMNUS]. I’m ashamed that my alma mater continues to take money from Greg Gianforte whose donor history and actions directly contradict Stevens’s values. Furthermore, it is unconscionable that the administration would think it appropriate to name a building after such an individual. I would like a public explanation from the administration where they explain their reasoning behind such actions.
  • Or you can call and say:
    “Hello, My name is [NAME] and I’m a Stevens Institute of Technology [STUDENT/ALUMNUS] calling in regards to the establishment of the Gianforte Academic Center. I do not support association with the Gianforte Family Foundation because of Greg Gianforte’s high profile support of organizations and policies that directly contradict Stevens’s values of inclusion and diversity. This is a decision that merits further consideration and should be postponed until further community, alumni and current student input can be gathered. Thank you.”
  • Share this message on social media!

HERE’S WHERE YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THIS:

  1. Gianforte donated money to groups which support gay conversion therapy
    http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/opinion/guest-opinions/2016/04/27/gianforte-gave-gay-conversion-groups/83623232/
  2. Article on the danger and fraudulence of gay conversion therapy
    http://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy
  3. Article outlining Gianforte’s extreme anti-LQBTQ positions
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/republican-for-montana-governor-anti-lgbt-past?utm_term=.tjlX6l5GLl#.ukozJpGk5p
  4. Brief overview of Family Research Council, a hate group donated to by Gianforte
    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/family-research-council
  5. Profile of Stevens for the 2015 School Year
    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=186867
  6. Decision by Stevens to name Academic Center after Gianforte
    https://www.stevens.edu/news/combined-total-20-million-gifts-gianforte-family-foundation-largest-financial-support-single-project

LINK TO FOOTNOTES: 
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1l7JpHdu1k8VimSx3UVlE7_5M3ib7vwhoyWAzkmcmdjM/edit

Header image: Interpolated version of work from Stevens Digital Collection

This petition will be delivered to:
  • President of Stevens Institute of Technology
    Nariman Farvardin

    Joseph Risi started this petition with a single signature, and now has 378 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.