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MSU implements 'thorough, factual investigation’ of donors prior to naming buildings, strengthens donor accountability

February 2, 2024
The Board of Trustees Meeting at the Hannah Administration Meeting on Sep. 8, 2023.
The Board of Trustees Meeting at the Hannah Administration Meeting on Sep. 8, 2023. —
Photo by Denille Reid | The State News

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has imposed stricter rules for naming campus buildings and facilities, after a donor who went on a racist tirade had his name removed from a university lab in October

The board unanimously voted to approve the revisions to its existing policy on buildings and facilities naming at its Friday meeting

The changes outline a more detailed process for changing or removing previous naming, and expanding the role and composition of a Naming Committee which advises the university president on proposed names or changes to names. 

With the updated policy, any proposed naming is first submitted for review to the Naming Committee, instead of the president. The committee now has Vice President for University Advancement Kim Tobin as chair, one university dean, an additional MSU student and several administrators

The committee will now go through “thorough, factual investigation of the proposed honoree,” according to the updated policy. Buildings that aren’t being named after people do not have to go through the committee.

Buildings and facilities can no longer be named after public officials while they hold office.

MSU can remove an existing name from a building “under extraordinary circumstances when the continued use of the honoree’s name would compromise the public trust and adversely reflect upon MSU and its reputation,” the policy states.

The decision follows a lengthy battle over what’s now the Eli Broad College of Business Entrepreneurship Lab

The facility was originally named after Larry Gaynor and his wife. Gaynor, the CEO of TNG Worldwide, donated $3 million to MSU in 2017

But after Gaynor's racist tirade about the Vietnamese community in 2020, MSU’s student government passed two bills advocating for the removal of his name from the facility and stricter rules on the naming of buildings for stronger donor accountability

Following years of student advocacy, MSU removed the name in Oct. 2023

That’s not the first time a donor’s name was removed from a university building. In 2020, trustees voted to remove former board member Stephen Nisbet’s name from the human resources building, due to his discovered involvement with the Klu Klux Klan.

University spokesperson Emily Guerrant said the recent controversies spurred the proposal to the board

“You have the culmination of those things all happening, and it was just a decision that we need to reevaluate what our policy is,” Guerrant said.

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