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Donor's name removed from business college lab following student advocacy

October 18, 2023
Minskoff Pavilion, new building of MSU College of Business, photographed on July 25.
Minskoff Pavilion, new building of MSU College of Business, photographed on July 25.

After years of advocacy, the Vietnamese Student Association, Associated Students of MSU and other campus groups have received the acknowledgement they have been fighting for. 

MSU alumnus and donor Larry Gaynor's name has been removed from the Eli Broad College of Business Entrepreneurship Lab — formerly the Larry and Teresa Gaynor Entrepreneurship Lab — and the MSU donor list more than three years after he made racist remarks about Vietnamese people

MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said the decision to remove Gaynor’s name was a collaborative one

“The university and the Gaynors came to a mutual agreement to remove the name from the Eli Broad College of Business Entrepreneurship Lab," Olsen said. 

However, when asked about MSU’s efforts to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion and strategic planning into the decision making process of the removal, as well as the factors that led toward the removal, Olsen said he would not elaborate on the decisions or what led up to them

In May of 2020, Gaynor, the CEO of TNG Worldwide who had donated $3 million to MSU in 2017, went on a racist tirade about the Vietnamese community. 

Following Gaynor's comments, the Associated Students of MSU introduced a bill advocating that his name be removed from the lab. In response, then-President Samuel Stanley Jr. and Gaynor issued an apology but did not remove Gaynor's name. 

Nearly a year later in 2021, several university groups again demanded that his name be removed.

Then in 2022, ASMSU Vice President of Internal Administration Connor Le, who was then serving as Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO, representative, introduced a new bill advocating for the removal of Gaynor's name

Le, who played a pivotal role in the advocacy for removing Gaynor’s name, said that as an individual of Vietnamese descent, this situation hit close to home. He said that "having a name up there who is specifically against those of Vietnamese descent was very disheartening." 

"Seeing that, knowing that a name like that was up on Broad and getting celebrated by the Broad Business College was very hurtful, especially to my identity," Le said. "That’s why I cared so much about it, knowing that we shouldn’t be celebrating someone who’s made comments like that, especially against a marginalized community." 

Le and his peers fought vigorously for the change and expressed their concerns regarding donor accountability at MSU. As APASO representative, Le passed two bills advocating for the name removal, change with MSU culture and the establishment of donor accountability policies.

“We always appreciate student advocacy,” Olsen said. “In the work of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, we review their bills as they are passed, and recognize they are taking action on issues that are important to them.” 

Following the mutual agreement to remove Gaynor's name, the Vietnamese Student Association, or VSA, released a statement via Instagram announcing the news on Oct. 9. 

"MSU VSA applauds MSU for upholding their value to challenge discrimination and bias, however we acknowledge this is one of many steps towards addressing past and present donor accountability issues," the statement said. 

The statement also thanked those who contributed to the advocacy.  

"We would like to extend our gratitude to the organizations that stood in solidarity with MSU VSA," the statement said. "We thank all the groups that have supported the efforts to hold MSU and the Broad College accountable to their values." 

VSA President Tina Ngo said she was shocked to see the change finally come forward after three years had passed since Gaynor made his remarks

“For the name change, we never received the expected timeline," Ngo said. "However, somewhere in between we did feel a sense of hopelessness, only because there were so many things MSU had to deal with, and this kind of felt like a back burner.” 

Although Ngo felt this way, she and the VSA are proud to see their advocacy for donor accountability and change pay off, as well as cooperation from MSU

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“Regardless of the reasons behind the name change, this action highlights MSU’s mission to fulfill their values, especially when it comes to donor and vendor accountability,” Ngo said. “This is one of the many steps towards addressing the past and present donor accountability issues. Again, we are very thankful for MSU having done this for us. However, we hope that they are still able to fulfill their values for other accountability issues currently happening as well.” 

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