By Leslie Muir /// Opinions Editor
The Murdock Charitable Trust has come under criticism recently for continuing to give financial donations to groups that have been labeled by critics as being anti-LGBTQ. This Vancouver, Washington based institution has seen protests outside of its main offices and online petitions signed by Pacific Northwest residents asking them to cease financial support of such organizations. This outcry over their investments has spread to the Lewis & Clark campus as well, as the Murdock Charitable Trust is one of the school’s large longtime donors.
Shortly after the trust’s Feb. 24 grant to the school for the research of typology of clouds was announced, scrutiny began over the appropriateness of LC accepting money from an organization with outside ties to those that do not hold the same values as the community. Members of the Queer Student Union (QSU) have voiced concern over this and have urged others to sign an online petition asking the school to divest from the Murdock Charitable Trust, and any other organization that does not share the community’s values, saying that accepting their money is showing passive support for their supposed discriminatory practices.
A peer counselor for the QSU, Samson Harman ’16, noted that this is an issue the school should think critically about before applying for such grants.
“My feeling is that professors, departments, whoever, needs to be aware of where that money comes from, and how the school as a whole is implicated when anti-LGBTQIA+ people are the donors,” said Harman.
This individual grant for scientific research was one of many that have been requested and given by the Trust to faculty throughout the past two decades for specific educational projects. These are in addition to the larger sums of money given to LC by the Trust, such as $1 million in 1994 towards Watzek Library, $1 million in 2000 for the Boley Law Library, and $525,000 in 1991 for the Rogers Summer Science Program. Outside of their donations to LC, they have also given money to The Oregon Zoo, Oregon Health and Sciences University, local branches of The Boys and Girls Club, environmental groups, private conservative Christian organizations and hundreds of others organizations, all for specific purposes within the organization. Last year, students from the University of Portland voiced concerns in their student paper over their own school’s acceptance of money from the Trust.
Throughout this time the Murdock Charitable Trust has also given large sums of money to groups like the The Freedom Foundation, who according to online critics is promoting cutting funding for educational programs in Oregon, The Discovery Institute, an anti-climate change foundation, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports programs for gay conversion therapy and recently helped raise support in North Carolina for the controversial Bathroom Bill.
LC administrators knew that the Murdock Charitable Trust has also been giving money to organizations that have values that do not align with the generally liberal campus, but Director of Corporate Foundation Relations, Erik Fast, says that this is not the determining factor in who the school accepts donations from.
“In any partnership with a foundation donor, LC looks for the common middle ground,” Fast said. “If a foundation looks at us and likes what we are doing in a specific area, that’s the common ground where the college and the foundation can come together.” He described the nature of grants and how most given out to any organization are for specific programs that do not necessarily reflect support for the larger practices of the group.
“We might not agree with everything they support, but we also don’t expect that they agree with everything that we value,” Fast said.
Members of the QSU understand that the school has an interest in maintaining a good relationship with their donors while still being seen as queer-friendly.
“This school is invested in portraying a sanitized, queer-friendly, ‘diverse’ campus, so anything that might tarnish that image has to be removed or ignored,” Harman said.
While petitions have been circling online over the past few weeks to urge the school to divest from such companies, no correlated efforts have been established. Former student senator Brad Davis ’18 said that if students have grievances with anything that the institution is doing, such as applying for and accepting grants from organizations, they have a platform to do so.
“Anyone can attend an ASLC meeting and voice their concerns during a time period given at the end,” Davis said. “If a petition is going around online, it can be even more helpful to attend a meeting and let your student senators know about the issue.”
So far students have taken to social media to make their opinions about the Murdock Charitable Trust known, and have joined voices across the greater Northwest in asking the Trust itself to stop giving money to other groups that have anti-LGBTQ interests.