University of Minnesota Alums Protest Scholarship in George Floyd’s Honor

“He was not a hero, but a drug addict and criminal.”

To mark the one-year anniversary of his death, the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota announced that they are endowing a new scholarship to honor George Perry Floyd Jr.—the drug addict and criminal who became famous through his death at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin.

“This is an important step for our community,” said Carlson School Dean Sri Zaheer, who added that the scholarship “will enhance the diversity of the student body and has a preference for black and African-American students as well as those who have financial need or are victims of police violence, for as long as they are underrepresented at the Carlson school.”

Dean Zaheer noted that at George Floyd’s memorial service, “Universities nationwide were called upon to create scholarships in his honor to help create a more just and equitable world,” and called Carlson’s scholarship a “clear message” of their intentions to promote racial justice. But does George Floyd—repeat criminal, drug addict, and unwitting martyr for a movement—deserve the immense honor of a scholarship in his name?

Bruce Hendry, a prominent alumnus of the University of Minnesota, is one of many who object to the honor their alma mater has bestowed on Floyd. Hendry has devoted significant time and resources to the betterment of the University, both serving on the Carlson Board of Overseers for 10 years and joining the university’s “Century Club” which consists of those who gave more than $100,000 to the University more than twenty-five years ago. 

Hendry wrote to Dean Zaheer and University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel to express his concerns about the George Floyd scholarship. “I want to add my name to what must be a chorus of protest for establishing a scholarship for a despicable person like George Floyd. He was not a hero, but a drug addict and criminal,” Hendry wrote. “The University in general has gotten off tract to their mission and it saddens me greatly.”

When Dean Zaheer responded that the scholarship was funded by private donations, Hendry found that a poor excuse. “If I were to ask you to establish a scholarship to honor the Ku Klux Klan for deserving students, all with private money, would you do it?,” he queried. “The George Floyd scholarship may be funded by private money, but it is a black mark on the Carlson School and the University of Minnesota and will remain a black mark as long as you support it. My guess is that if you continue embracing the scholarship, it will eventually cost CSOM millions of dollars in withheld donations to the school.”

“My advice to you is to send back the money to the donors, or at least change the name of the scholarship to something less offensive,” he concluded.

Another alumnus, Wes Laseski, also wrote to express his objections to naming the scholarship for Floyd. “While I support diversity and inclusion for all,” he wrote, “I do not believe that Carlson establishing a George Floyd scholarship is the best way to accomplish this objective. What about establishing scholarships recognizing great Americans or great student accomplishments in the name of bringing our country together” Let's build around positives rather than negatives.”

Laseski went on to note that George Floyd’s personal history should make him starkly ineligible for the namesake of a scholarship: “Combining his terrible personal history, including imprisonment, drug abuse, and physical assault with the absence of any commitment such as fatherhood, makes me question how Carlson can establish a scholarship in his honor.”

“The message that Carlson should convey to incoming students is that America is great and with an education you can improve your lives while making our country even greater,” Laseski concluded. “The establishment of the George Floyd scholarship does not convey this message.”       

Hendry and Laseski are not alone in their sentiments. Another alum expressed his concerns more starkly: “So, after 6 burglaries, 3 car thefts, multiple illegal trespasses, an ongoing cocaine and alcohol addiction, committing 2 violent home invasions, 3 armed robberies, dealing Fentanyl and Meth, passing counterfeit money, beating 4 victims senseless and being arrested 23 times since 1998, they wish to honor him?,” queried another friend who heard the news about the George Floyd scholarship. “This is now the standard of an honorable person?  A roll model? Are these the qualities the recipient will be required to have?”

George Floyd’s death was a travesty and Officer Derek Chauvin has paid the price. But honoring Floyd—the unwitting and clearly undeserving martyr for a movement—taints the ideals espoused by the University of Minnesota and other institutions of higher education. Scholarships should be named for individuals or institutions who embody the highest ethical and moral standards. George Floyd is not among them. 

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