- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Students at Montana State University are protesting the school’s acceptance of an $8 million donation from Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, because of his past support for the conservative Family Research Council.

Mr. Gianforte is donating $8 million to the school to rename its Computer Science Department to the Gianforte School of Computing, as well as naming an auditorium after him, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

But the school’s decision to accept the donation has sparked the ire of LGBT activists, who accused Mr. Gianforte of being homophobic because of his donations to the Family Research Council, a D.C. think tank that identifies as “pro-marriage and pro-life,” Campus Reform reported.

“This issue is not about differing political opinions. This is about an institutional level acceptance of discrimination and hatred,” Ryan Chauner, a student, said at the board of regents meeting last week. “Given Greg’s opposition to the NDO (non-discrimination ordinance) and the support of an anti-gay hate group, it is clear that at best he disregards the homophobia of this association and at worst is an outright opponent to an entire population of human beings merely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Others said Mr. Gianforte’s values conflict with Montana State’s mission.

“Greg Gianforte’s financial contributions to a hate group and his efforts to prevent the non-discrimination ordinance have clearly demonstrated a contradiction between MSU’s values and Gianforte’s beliefs,” one student said, Campus Reform reported.

Members of the school’s Queer Straight Alliance responded with a petition condemning the university’s decision to accept the offer.

“Greg Gianforte is an avid opponent of LGBTQ Montanans. The Gianforte Family Foundation has made significant contributions to noted anti-LGBTQ hate groups, including the Family Research Council,” the petition reads. “Renaming the Computer Science Department after Gianforte created a massive setback in relations between the LGBTQIA community and the MSU administration.”

The petition demands that graduating students of the Computer Science Department do not have Mr. Gianforte’s name printed on their official diplomas and transcripts. It also calls for the formation of a task force “to review gift acceptance and renaming policies within the Montana University System.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers have also pledged to introduce a bill during the next legislative session that would prevent naming buildings or schools in the university system after candidates for elected office, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

“This legislation will take politics out of the process to name our university buildings, programs and schools,” said Democratic Sen. Tom Facey of Missoula. “Our university system should not be put in the position of allowing charitable donations to be used as a tool in elections.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado, however, thanked the Gianforte family for the generous donation, saying their partnership was a long time coming, MSU News Service reported.

“The Gianfortes have been longtime supporters of MSU. This gift has been years in the making and is a testament to Greg and Susan’s strong commitment to higher education and MSU in particular,” Ms. Cruzado said. “We are very grateful for their generosity and the tremendous impact it will have on generations of students.”

“This gift is the logical next step in our long relationship with MSU and the Department of Computer Science,” said Mr. Gianforte. “The Gianforte family is thrilled to partner with MSU in a way that will benefit all of Montana.”

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