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APASO Rep. pushes bills for renaming campus lab to support Vietnamese community

September 22, 2022
<p>APASO member Connor Le sits inside the Vincent Chin room in Holden Hall on July 14, 2022.</p>

APASO member Connor Le sits inside the Vincent Chin room in Holden Hall on July 14, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Associated Students of Michigan State University's APASO Rep. Connor Le will be introducing Bill 59-10 and Bill 59-11 at the general assembly meeting on Sept. 22.

Bill 59-10 is to advocate for the removal of CEO of TNG Worldwide and MSU alumnus Larry Gaynor’s name from the Larry and Teresa Gaynor Entrepreneurship Lab, and Bill 59-11 is to establish donor accountability policies and stricter background checks for those dedicated in hall names.

Described as a "five-pronged attack," five MSU organizations will take part in this movement: ASMSU, Vietnamese Student Association, Faculty Senate, University Council and Council of Graduate Students.

In June 2017, Gaynor donated $3 million to support the construction of the lab for a collaboration space and entrepreneurship business courses.

However, in May 2020, Gaynor made racist remarks toward Vietnamese communities during a business webinar.

“Obviously, I was pretty taken aback,” seconder of Bill 59-10 and Broad College of Business Rep. Udai Singh said. “I mean you have a business leader like Larry Gaynor, someone who we consider an esteemed alumni, who we’re supposed to be proud of, right? … Quite frankly I don’t think that people who make those kind of remarks should be memorialized in any way.”

ASMSU initially introduced a bill in June 2020, to hold MSU donors accountable, remove Gaynor’s name from the lab and enact more Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, or APIDA, programming at the Broad Business College.

In response, Gaynor and MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. sent an apology to various organizations which stated how MSU is attempting to incorporate more diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, efforts, but they chose to not take Gaynor’s name off the lab.

Following Gaynor’s racist comments and acts of anti-Asian violence, MSU Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO, Asia, Pacific Islander, Desi American/Asian Faculty and Staff Association, or APIDA/AFSA and the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, held a community town hall meeting that demanded University action to support its APIDA community. Among the demands, it included the removal of Gaynor’s name from the lab.

Now, in 2022, Le decided to bring back the bill in hopes of MSU taking action.

“As a Vietnamese American myself, having a name like this on campus … having somebody being dedicated, being celebrated, even though they don’t like me, they don’t like where I came from, where my family came from, it hurts,” Le said. 

This hasn’t been a unique experience for MSU. In 2020, the Board of Trustees renamed the Nisbet Human Resources Building after the discovery of former board member Stephen Nisbet's affiliation with the Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s.

“It’s shown that Stanley has the power to do this,” Le said. “It’s been shown that the Board of Trustees has the power to do this. So, if they did it to Nisbet, why can’t they do it with Gaynor?”

Singh said that no university is perfect, but that doesn’t mean real change from MSU isn’t needed.

“We need to have a certain level of awareness of what we as students and what we as a school are trying to dictate,” Singh said. “We have to do our parts and that’s the beautiful part about ASMSU and being a Broad representative and working with people like Connor. We care enough to do something about it and try to be the best possible establishment that we can. … We need to do our best to protect marginalized communities as well, that’s also key in the bill.”

Le asks Stanley and the Board of Trustees to put themselves in the shoes of the Vietnamese community.

“Imagine there’s a room on campus, there’s a building on campus that’s named after somebody that’s basically known that they hate your community,” Le said. “We know they’re racist, but still we're celebrating them for what they've done at MSU even though all they've done is donated money. … Why are we celebrating a man who thinks that my people shouldn’t speak their native language, shouldn’t be involved in the business they like, should have done nothing good for the salon business — why should we celebrate that man?”

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