The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported in May about current gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte’s intent to donate $8 million to Montana State. MSU accepted Gianforte’s gift, but not without much dispute. Gianforte has long been an opponent of LGBTQ+ civil liberties, through his rhetoric and financial contributions to the so-called Family Research Council. There was significant public outcry, and the Board of Regents expressed a clear tone of reluctance in their debate on whether or not to accept. University President Waded Cruzado went so far as to say “diversity is a two-way street. It’s as much [about] tolerance as it is about acceptance. And it’s one of the most difficult things to do.”
The timing of the donation is intriguing. In the midst of a fierce political contest, it seems obvious that Gianforte’s interest is not purely for the good of Montana State and the progress of academia. This is not the only time that Gianforte has swaggered his coffers for political gain. Gianforte’s campaign made the unnecessary promise to voters in August that he would personally bankroll his travel expenses while on state business. Gianforte has made a habit of making his wealth a qualifier for leadership.
My views on Greg Gianforte’s recently accepted gift to MSU are complicated. No voice should be stifled, no matter how despicable their message may be. In this regard, I have no issue with Gianforte spreading his personal message of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. I simply disagree with him on a visceral level. I would say the same in response to any person or group I disagree with so deeply.
However, it would be undeniably inappropriate for an individual who endorses (financially or otherwise) a hate group to also endorse an institution of the state. This is augmented by the fact that MSU, as a state school, has made itself clear in its support of LGBTQ+ students’ civil liberties. Therefore, it is in a disregard for integrity and keeping of honor that the Montana Board of Regents and MSU has accepted Gianforte’s generous financial gift.
Given Gianforte’s clear and evident ties to groups which would seek to destroy and suppress the civil liberties of their fellow Americans, accepting his endorsement is tantamount to announcing a complicit relationship with these groups.
The Board of Regents and MSU would not accept a gift from an individual who believes, even religiously, racist rhetoric. Cruzado would never describe tolerance as a “two-way street” in this circumstance.
However, accommodating backpedaling aside, Cruzado and the university administration have made their intentions clear. Meetings with the Queer Straight Alliance and subsequent statements from the President’s office illustrate the university’s desire to create and maintain an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion. The Exponent will continue to report on the university’s actions on these desires. Gianforte’s intentions are, in the light of the gubernatorial contest, certainly suspect. Name recognition and legacy come to mind, but here’s the reality: Gianforte has played himself. He has given away a small fortune to an institution which wholeheartedly rejects his fundamentalist worldview.