Students try to raise $20M to get Gianforte name off building

Stevens Institute of Technology students are demanding that the school completely rename a building originally honoring its Republican mega-donor Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Following widespread objections from critics, the university already renamed the building once last month in an effort to acknowledge the contribution of the donor as well as “the record of accomplishment, contributions, and principal legacy of his wife and business partner Susan Gianforte and parents Dale and Frank Gianforte ’58, a respected and engaged Stevens alumnus and executive in the aerospace and real estate development industries.”

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According to the school announcement in late September, the building, originally named “The Gianforte Academic Center,” was agreed by all parties to be called the “Gianforte Family Academic Center.”

“I am extremely pleased that the Board of Trustees and Mr. Gianforte reached this alternative solution, as it demonstrates that both parties have kept the best interests of Stevens—and, in particular, the best interests of our students and the education we deliver to them—in mind in resolving an issue that has caused concern to members our campus,” university president Nariman Farvardin said in a statement.

Prior to finalizing the move, the Board of Trustees appointed a “Committee to Consider the Naming of the Gianforte Academic Center” that “proactively reached out via email each week over a five-week period to approximately 30,000 individuals,” including alumi.

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Gianforte, who has made two $10 million donations for the new structure since 2012, has been heavily condemned by liberal critics for his political and religious views, including his physical altercation with a Guardian reporter in May.

“In light of all the facts and input considered by the Board and following extensive deliberations, the Board has given its full support to changing the name of the academic center from the Gianforte Academic Center to The Gianforte Family Academic Center,” the university said in a statement.

According to a recent fundraising effort organized by some students, however, the new name “doesn’t exactly inspire.”

“The Stevens Administration is planning on naming this building the Gianforte Family Academic Center,” the students write. “That name doesn’t exactly inspire, and yet they insist on using it. After weeks of deliberating, we’ve come to the conclusion that there may be some kind of monetary pressure behind this. That’s ok! We have a solution.”

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The students are seeking to raise $20 million in hopes that the administration “may entertain our request to change the name.” So far, however, the students have only raised about $1,300.

“Greg Gianforte has done a lot of things we’re not fans of: assaulting a journalist, propagating values antithetical to our institution such as scientific creationism and climate change denial, and funding organizations that promote violent conversion therapy and the denial of fundamental rights for the LGBTQ community,” the petition reads.  

“The Stevens we know—the Stevens we see in the actions of student leadership and the example of faculty, the Stevens we see in dorms and classrooms and on every admissions brochure—doesn’t tolerate any of these things, so why should it honor a man who practices them?”

Some in the Stevens community, however, do not believe that the school should have changed the name of the academic center in the first place.

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Frank DiCola, a 2014 graduate of the university who gave feedback to the Board of Trustees over the summer, told Campus Reform that caving in to critics’ demands does not encourage alumni to donate money to the institution.

“Let’s say one day my business takes off and I am a super millionaire, and I am deciding what to do with my donation. Why would I donate to Stevens now?” he said in a phone interview.

“Anyone who hears about this story and who is an alumnus will probably think twice about writing Stevens a big check,” he added, predicting that many potential donors will be forced to ask themselves, “Is it worth a headache?”

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