Stevens Institute of Technology is initiating a review process to determine whether Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s name will be on a new academic building for which his family’s philanthropic foundation pledged $20 million.
Gianforte, a 1983 graduate of the university in Hoboken, New Jersey, was sworn into Congress last week after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming a reporter on the eve of the special election for Montana’s at-large House seat.
In a letter to faculty, staff, students and alumni, the chairwoman of the board of trustees and the university president announced they were forming a committee to consider input from the Stevens community about Gianforte’s actions. The committee will then review school policies and donor relationships to decide how to handle such a situation.
“It is clear that this is a very serious matter about which reasonable people disagree, and that whatever decision is made could be viewed either favorably or unfavorably by some members of our community,” the letter stated.
The committee will include students, faculty, alumni, staff and trustees. James Zazzali, the former attorney general and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, will facilitate the committee’s discussions. The committee is expected to work into the fall 2017 semester and will present the board with a set of guidelines and principles to make a decision.
Concerns about Gianforte’s name being on the building arose while he was still a congressional candidate this past spring. Those concerns, the letter read, stemmed from his “public statements and philanthropic record.”
Nariman Farvardin, the university president, discussed those concerns at a town hall meeting in mid-April. That month, Farvardin assured the Stevens community that Gianforte’s gift wouldn’t compromise the university’s commitment to academic freedom.
“It is important to note that Greg Gianforte has never made any request of the University to promote specific political, religious, or other positions associated with this gift,” the president wrote in April.
Gianforte was not available for questions after Tuesday’s first vote. Walking off the House floor, he and his staff said he was on his way to a meeting. His staff had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.