Last year, the news broke that Barnard Construction Co., owned by Gonzaga University Trustee Timothy Barnard, was contracted to build a large section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. This began Barnard’s involvement with border construction.
According to The Spokesman-Review, The Montana-based company made an agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to rebuild a 20-mile border wall in New Mexico with a $73.3 million contract.
Barnard is listed as a trustee emeritus, which means he represents GU while not serving on the board directly. This means that he doesn’t vote on university decisions.
Barnard has a long history with GU, participating in programs, donating large sums of money to our school and receiving awards. Barnard attended Gonzaga-in-Florence in 1971, was a primary donor for the Della Strada Jesuit Community, served on GU's Board of Trustees since 2000, received a distinguished alumni merit award in 2004 and an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2017.
Barnard is a businessman, with his own beliefs and ideas. He also has the freedom to spend his money where he wants and choose which direction his company should go in, which means making decisions for the well-being of his business. I believe that people can do what they want with their money and business, but when they are closely connected with a private, Jesuit institution, it gets trickier.
The GU Mission states that “the Gonzaga experience fosters a mature commitment to dignity of the human person, social justice, diversity, intercultural competence, global engagement, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for the planet.”
The main issue is that those aspects of our mission aren't being represented at the border and it's a symbol of alienation. The wall itself is less of an issue than the treatment of people when they get there. It is a fact that there are many issues at the border that need attention. This new project is a result of an executive order by President Donald Trump.
Undeniably, Barnard has done some really generous things for GU and has taken on a lot of positive projects with his company. According to the Barnard Construction Co.'s website, they created the Gilboa Dam to ensure clean drinking water for New York City and conducted the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, which, according to The Spokesman-Review, helped save a spawning habitat for endangered salmon. These are just two examples of the good things the company has done.
Our government is prioritizing physical walls over the health and safety of asylum seekers and immigrants who are coming to America. Most times, these individuals are fleeing persecution and/or pursuing their dreams when they come here. There is a lack of funding and urgent overcrowding issues surrounding the border and the wall seems to be the least pressing issue as of now.
Families are separated, children are being removed from their families, and there is an enormous backlog of asylum cases. There is no doubt that the border is a huge source of contempt nationally, and I believe treating all people with respect and dignity is something that needs to be worked on more than a physical wall.
Compassion is one of the most powerful defenses we have against injustice, and showing love and support to immigrants coming from all places is a very important step to making the world a kinder place.