Amazon, considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple, and Facebook, has donated a notable three million dollars to Seattle University’s new Center for Science and Innovation (CSI) building.
The Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, made an appearance at Seattle U on May 13 to discuss the new CSI on campus and the donation of three million dollars towards the building.
Jassy initiated the presentation by explaining why Seattle U received the donation.
“I think we all feel really passionately about the fact that Seattle U puts such a focus on educating and advancing women and underrepresented minorities because that is an important area of focus for Amazon as well,” Jassy said.
Jassy discussed how jobs in America have shifted and require higher levels of education because jobs that were attainable with just high school degrees have left the country.
“If you look at what’s happening in the U.S, there are plenty of jobs. If you look at Washington state itself, there’s an incredible number of jobs,” Jassy said. “But, the level of education required is not accessible right now.”
Jassy further explained that the accessibility of higher education is one of the biggest crises in the country.
However, Amazon has been criticized in the past few years for its sale of its facial recognition program, Rekognition, to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other law enforcement agencies.
Jassy said that Amazon Web Services prides itself on being able to deliver to diverse audiences because they look at the different perspectives that can be offered. He said Amazon leaders seek input in order to be inclusive and understanding in all decisions.
Prompted by a question about Amazon’s work with ICE, Jassy discussed the software program and said that Amazon does not believe that ICE’s use of Rekognition violates their terms of service, and as a result, it is an ethical use of their technology.
“In all of those services we have very clear terms of service on how you can use the technology and how you can’t use the technology,” he said.
He said that Amazon removes and suspends people if they determine that their use is irresponsible.
Jassy vouched for Rekognition by saying the software has reunited missing children with parents, helped stop human trafficking, and has helped with security. Jassy reiterated that there can be misuse in the wrong hands, however—especially in law enforcement—but he said that Rekognition is only used in law enforcement when there is a 99 percent confidence interval to use it for that reason. He said that there has not been any report of misuse of Rekognition by law enforcement.
Amazon believes that the “secret sauce of success” comes from the culture they have created at Amazon by having great leadership and having multiple perspectives. However, many find it frustrating to hear Amazon talk about the importance of inclusivity and perspective when Seattle has faced gentrification due to the company’s expansion.
Michael Quinn, the dean of the College of Science and Engineering, sees the contribution as an endorsement of the quality of education at Seattle U.
“It’s helping us provide more opportunities for students who want to be in those majors,” Quinn said. “The computer science program is growing very rapidly and so by giving more space for the department of computer science to grow, we will be able to allow more students to major in computer science.”
The CSI, which will house the Chemistry, Biology, and Computer Science departments, will cost $115 million to be built, while $20 million will be spent to renovate the current engineering building.
Currently, the College of Engineering is made up of about 1,300 students. It is expected to grow by at least 300 students in the next six years. “I think this project is going to be fantastic for students across campus, not just those in the College of Science and Engineering,” Quinn said. “We’re bringing the Center for Community Engagement to the heart of campus. It shows how important community engagement is for our student experience.”
Along with that, Seattle U’s radio station, KXSU, will no longer be in the Campion basement, instead finding its home on the second floor of the CSI building.
While some student protesters at the May 13 event voiced discomfort at Seattle U’s acceptance of Amazon’s donation, the community will nonetheless see the new building on Seattle U’s campus in 2021.
Michaela may be reached at