Carl Ingwell says he had no idea corporations were contributing to the environmental humanities program. Then he saw developers like Kennecott Land and the Boyer Company listed as “friends” of environmental humanities. Ingwell also saw the Utah Mining Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on the list.
“Taking money from these entities is not congruent with the spirit of the program as it was set up,” says Ingwell, leader of an alumni group that wants administrators to stop accepting corporate donations like these.
“I think it says that corporations are trying to co-opt the environmental movement right now,” he says, “and that corporations are trying to buy their way out of the wrong that they’ve been doing to this planet for hundreds of years now.”
Ingwell compares this effort to pressing universities to divest from fossil fuels companies – a mission shared by many environmental humanities students.
The question poses a challenge for current administrators. The donors listed as friends gave to a College of Humanities fund that helped establish the environmental humanities program in 2005.
“These were gifts to help the program get started,” says Jeff McCarthy, the program’s current director. He encourages activism among students and discussions about ethics.
“We need to make a kind of ethical valuation about places from which we accept money,” he says. “We can’t be part of what gets called green washing for organizations that have ideals that run contrary to ours.”
McCarthy says he’s not aware of similar contributions to the environmental humanities program in recent years.