Town Hall Addresses Pagliaro Selz Anti-Vax Controversy
Article written by Kylie Miller and Jamie Nguyen.
Questions and concerns are being raised over Goucher College’s second-largest donors; Lisa Pagliaro Selz, Goucher alumni and former Board of Trustees member, and her husband, Bernard Selz. A residence hall in the First-Year Village, Pagliaro Selz (P. Selz) Hall, is named after the couple.
The Selz family has donated over 11 million dollars to the college. However, Goucher is not the only cause their money is funding.
A story published by the Washington Post on June 19th, 2019 named Lisa Pagliaro Selz and Bernard Selz as significant donors to anti-vaccination groups, including the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN). ICAN fights against the elimination of vaccination exemptions, and supports the alleged link between vaccinations and autism.
In response to this news, a petition on Change.org was made by Goucher chemistry student, Jeremy Bloch. The petition calls to change the name of P. Selz Hall to Florence B. Seibert Hall. Florence B. Seibert was a member of the class of 1918 whose work has led to the standardization of the tuberculosis detection test that is still in use today worldwide.
The petition has 397 signatures as of September 22nd. No public comment has been made by the Selz family or Goucher College regarding The Post story or the petition.
“Public health and science are two areas that are important to me, and so I decided to start the petition. I wanted to force a discussion as to how can we have such a strong history in the sciences and a blossoming Public Health Department, and yet still have buildings on campus named after people who have made donations to organizations that go very much against both science and public health?” says Bloch.
On Monday, September 16th, 2019, a town hall was held with President Kent Devereaux to address students’ concerns. The town hall was planned by Bloch after several one on one meetings with President Devereaux.
President Devereaux opened the town hall by explaining his position in this situation. He stepped into the role of president in July, meaning he was not involved in the naming of P. Selz Hall. He also has yet to meet the Selz family.
He is in the process of scheduling a meeting with the Selz family in New York City to discuss why they are funding these anti-vaccination organizations. Following this, steps will be discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting in October.
President Devereaux also shared the impact of vaccinations during his lifetime and explained Goucher’s Immunization Policy, which requires vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff.
The larger question of Goucher’s naming policy, or lack thereof, was discussed during the town hall. President Devereaux expressed his desire to revise and strengthen the guidelines for naming buildings on campus.
This led to a conversation about the construction plans for the Science Research Center, which will expand on the existing Hoffberger Science Center. President Deveraux said this construction project is his top priority.
Funding for the Science Research Center is underway. President Devereaux acknowledged that the interest of donors should align with the interests of the College. However, he also clarified that the college is not in a position where they are likely to refuse investments.
At the end of the town hall, students asked President Devereaux how they can stay involved in the conversation. He turned it over to junior Noah Block, president of Goucher Student Government. Block explained that President Devereaux will attend Goucher Student Government meetings on a monthly basis.
“I don’t want people to see this town hall as the last thing we’ll ever hear about this situation. This will be an ongoing issue that I will continue to push for my remaining semesters at Goucher. Don’t give up hope just because nothing changes after one meeting. Be open to the possibility that what is demanded in the petition might not be the end result, but other outcomes could still be a possibility that would be beneficial to the college” shares Bloch.
Bloch plans to follow up with President Devereaux after the board meeting in October.