As the Foundation’s Annual Giving Fund Drive gets underway this year, I pause and reflect on the events of the last year. I have been contributing annually to the fund since my arrival at Valdosta State in 1990. I have happily given not only to my own department, but to various units throughout the university as many of these need additional support. But as events of the past several months have unfolded, I have been put in a position where I have to make a difficult decision. I want to continue to offer monetary support, but I am disturbed with the recent attitudes and actions of the foundation and feel compelled to boycott the Annual Giving drive.
Let me explain. The first set of disturbing events came last year, as the students in SAVE joined the national fossil fuel divestiture movement and asked the VSU Foundation to consider divesting our university investments from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction. The idea here is simple. Climate Change is real, it’s upon us, and it’s caused by greenhouse gases. Since human activities are the principal cause of the drastically increased presence of carbon in the atmosphere, we need to stop extracting carbon-rich material out of the ground and find alternative energy sources. When SAVE students Danielle Jordan and Ben Vieth brought these ideas to the foundation, Wayne Edwards, chairman of the Board of Trustees, was patronizing and disrespectful to them to say the least. He basically told them that they were conned into believing in human caused climate change by VSU faculty and, having no credentials in climate science, dismissed the idea that VSU faculty might have accurate knowledge of climate science. This stance is not only disrespectful, but incredibly ironic, given that higher education is what the Board is charged to support. It’s as if they were on the Board of Trustees of a church, yet were themselves atheists.
Secondly, I am deeply disturbed about the treatment of the Mary Turner Project, whose foundation funds were frozen after its director, Mark George, engaged the Georgia Assembly’s public financing of neo-confederate activities. As the Mary Turner Project is an organization dedicated to racial healing, it is perfectly legitimate for Dr. George to challenge those practices which are inimical to such healing. As a supporter and contributor to the Mary Turner Project, I am not only upset that this endeavor has been shut down, but that the funds I submitted in good faith have no guarantee to be used as intended. How can I give through the foundation if it can decide willy nilly to freeze funding when it’s politically expedient to do so?
It saddens me that it comes to this and that deserving organizations will suffer because of my decision, but I cannot give my continued support until these issues are resolved and the Foundation can come to respect the work of its faculty and students of this university.