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Choice of Montana Tech's graduation speakers prompts boycott

By Jacqueline Gedeon, KTVM Butte Reporter, jgedeon@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 27 2014 06:37:09 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 27 2014 08:54:05 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

The graduation keynote speakers at Montana Tech are prompting some student and professors to call for boycott of the ceremony.

Tech officials announced Bozeman entrepreneurs Greg and Susan Gianforte would be the speakers.

The Gianfortes both have engineering degrees. They are known for founding Right-Now Technologies in Bozeman and kickstarting the Code Montana program. For Montana Tech Chancellor Don Blackketter, the Gianfortes seem like a good choice.

"Certainly they have a compelling story about entrepreneurial activities and they've created hundreds of jobs in Montana," said Blackketter.

But some students and faculty told us they are upset by the Gianfortes' politics. Susan Gianforte specifically has spoken out against a potential nondiscrimination ordinance for Bozeman.

"People are definitely entitled to their beliefs, but science is not a belief," said Montana Tech student Caleb Hill. "It is a system of facts and theories that can be proven through experimentation and this is a school of science and not a school of religion."

Hill is one of the students against having the Gianfortes speak and said he is trying to organize a separate graduation ceremony.

"Why do we have to find the person who has these extremist views, why don't we find somebody who is a entrepreneur who has more moderate mainstream views?" said Montana Tech Professor Henry Gonshak.

But not everyone on campus agrees. We spoke to several students who told us they are fine with the Gianfortes speaking.

"I don't think it matters what their beliefs are as far as speaking or anything like that," said Sam Halvorson.

Blackketter said he wants the students to be respectful of the speakers' beliefs and just take away the advice they have to offer.

"I think its important to be really respectful of people's religious beliefs, their cultures, their sexual orientation, all those kind of things that are principles and policies we have here at Montana Tech," said Blackketter.