Last Thursday, the Stevens Board of Trustees announced that our values have a price tag. If a donation is high enough, then the Board is willing to name our buildings after just about anyone. Stevens is willing to brand Greg Gianforte’s name onto our campus — whatever it takes to receive a check.
Apparently, the decision to name a building after Greg Gianforte was not taken lightly. Months ago, the Board of Trustees, uncomfortable by criticism, assembled a committee to consider the naming of the Academic Center — a way to deflect attention away from themselves.
This committee took comments from the public and, supposedly, reviewed how the actions of Gianforte would reflect on the Stevens community. I say “supposedly” because no committee minutes, no committee agendas, no committee documents — no real information about the work of the committee — have yet been made public. When I asked for information from a committee member, the single response I received was, “The work of the committee is confidential.” The work of the committee — the committee that decided the reputation of our university — hid behind closed doors.
Even after the announcement, I asked for more information. Yet they insisted everything remains sealed.
At least, in the email to Stevens students and faculty announcing the naming of the academic building, the Board of Trustees and the committee provided some proof that they’ve been attentive to the community’s concerns. But by addressing some of the community’s concerns, the committee revealed their indifference to these concerns.
In the first bullet point on the email, the committee noted that “$1.9 million” of Gianforte’s donations have “been directed to organizations” that “[support] heterosexual marriage.”
Gianforte hasn’t only supported organizations that “[support] heterosexual marriage.” Gianforte has supported businesses that kick out gay people for being gay. Gianforte has actively supported legislation that restricts an LGBT couple’s right to adopt. Gianforte has been vocally against a transgender person’s need to use their correct restroom. Perhaps most appalling: Gianforte contributes to organizations that support LGBT conversion camps.
Greg Gianforte, for his entire professional career, has attacked the LGBT community.
The Board of Trustees’ neglect to mention these grave concerns in their email may seem insignificant to some, but it is horrendous and it is upsetting for someone like me. In a single bullet point, the Board exposed their apathy to the opposition. The Stevens Board of Trustees reduced Gianforte’s egregious donations to anti-LGBT organizations and reduced my entire life’s struggles to three words.
Maybe it’s easy for someone who has never felt the isolation of being gay to say that I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s easy for someone to say that Gianforte’s work from an institutional perspective outweighs his support for prejudiced causes. But until that someone has to switch high schools to avoid being harassed by teachers and students for a sixth week in a row; until that someone is turned away from businesses because their voice is “too high” and they “aren’t right with God”; until that someone is taunted day in and day out, fearful of what to expect next, resenting the day they became a faggot; until that someone has beer bottles thrown at them while they walk down the street because they had the audacity to hold another boy’s hand; until that someone has to spend their weekends at conversion therapy, having their temples singed and their body abused by behavior modification; until that someone understands the suffering gay people like me have gone through for our entire lives, they have no right to say I shouldn’t be upset. His institutional accomplishments will never redeem his character, values, and support for shameful organizations.
The Stevens Board of Trustees and The Committee were willing to ignore these major grievances by parsing their language and misrepresenting ideas. They simplified discrimination, hate, and prejudices exhibited by Greg Gianforte, and they could somehow call their rename from “Greg Gianforte” to “Greg Gianforte Family” a compromise. That is something which I can’t support and something that all Stevens students should detest.
We have a responsibility to keep talking about the Board of Trustees’ decision to bolster Gianforte’s name on our campus. I refuse to believe that their decision ends this conversation; it doesn’t.
We, as students, shouldn’t comply with an unjust decision and pretend that the Gianforte Family name won’t have a negative impact on our campus. It’s important we continue fostering a community that is aware of whom our buildings glorify. Having these difficult conversations with friends and colleagues may seem small, and it may seem inconsequential. But by doing so, we reaffirm that we stand for inclusion, for diversity, and for openness. We reaffirm that we will never stop fighting for what’s right.