After failed fact check, university withholds President’s Service Award in today’s ceremony

Following a Signal investigation, the university retracts its set service award to Furquan Stafford.


Written by Christina Maxouris, April 16, 2018

icons8-certificate-50

Last week, Furquan Stafford received an email from Georgia State’s Office of Civic Engagement informing him he was the chosen recipient set to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award, given to university students with volunteer service accomplishments.

The only problem? Stafford isn’t enrolled in Georgia State, and hasn’t taken a class since 1997.

The award
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is given to students who complete more than 100 hours of community service during a calendar year.

According to Byron Jones, Student Affairs advisor for the Office of Civic Engagement, the department is investigating Stafford’s claims, following a Signal investigation that found Stafford may not have been a student during that time, and may have not completed the amount of volunteer hours he claimed.

Jones said the individual’s application claims are currently “being verified,” and as a result, he will not receive an award in today’s ceremony.

The department is investigating two claims: whether Stafford completed the given amount of hours he claimed, and whether he was a Georgia State student during the year of 2017.

Furquan Stafford, photographed by The Signal

After failed fact check, university withholds President’s Service Award in today’s ceremony


Following a Signal investigation, the university retracts its set service award to Furquan Stafford.


Written by Christina Maxouris, April 16, 2018

Last week, Furquan Stafford received an email from Georgia State’s Office of Civic Engagement informing him he was the chosen recipient set to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award, given to university students with volunteer service accomplishments.

The only problem? Stafford isn’t enrolled in Georgia State, and hasn’t taken a class since 1997.

The award
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is given to students who complete more than 100 hours of community service during a calendar year.

According to Byron Jones, Student Affairs advisor for the Office of Civic Engagement, the department is investigating Stafford’s claims, following a Signal investigation that found Stafford may not have been a student during that time, and may have not completed the amount of volunteer hours he claimed.

Jones said the individual’s application claims are currently “being verified,” and as a result, he will not receive an award in today’s ceremony.

The department is investigating two claims: whether Stafford completed the given amount of hours he claimed, and whether he was a Georgia State student during the year of 2017.

The requirements
A major requirement for the President’s Volunteer Service award is that the applicant is actually a student.

While Stafford had temporarily enrolled in classes during the summer and fall semesters of 2017, he had been dropped both times for financial reasons.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, the Georgia State Office of Civic Engagement informed The Signal that Stafford was set to receive the award “based on the calendar year of 2017.”

They said they were not aware he wasn’t a student.

University spokeswoman Andrea Jones said the award is being withheld.

“The civic award is based on volunteer hours,” she said. “The university is investigating whether Stafford was a student during the times he claims to have volunteered. He will not be receiving an award of recognition at Monday’s ceremony.”

Stafford is also currently pursuing an honorary doctorate degree from Georgia State, for which he claims he has received pushback from the university. Stafford claims this is because the university is racist towards him, and has filed a complaint accusing Georgia State University President Mark Becker of “standing in his way.”

Andrea Jones told The Signal the Office of Civic Engagement was not aware of “Stafford’s history with the university.”

“On Monday [April 16], after learning of Stafford’s deceptive methods in other university interactions, the Office of Civic Engagement reviewed Stafford’s application for the President’s Award for Civic Engagement,” she said.

So why did the university not verify the applicant’s claims until Signal inquiries prompted them to do so?

The recommendations
Stafford was nominated by Georgia State managerial sciences professor Edward Miles, who declined to comment on the issue. He was also recommended for the award by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Samuel T. Jackson, founder of Economic Empowerment Initiative Incorporated (EEI), a financial literacy non-profit.

When The Signal spoke to Cagle’s office, they said recommendations like this are often requested. In efforts of supporting their community, the office sends out recommendations in faith that the information recipients provide them with are true.

Irene Munn, Policy Director for the Lt. Governor, said that even though Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle does not know Stafford personally, the office often writes similar recommendations. Stafford had volunteered at various campaign events, and he told The Signal he asked Munn for a recommendation for the university award.

“We write letters a lot, for different people on the assumption that they’re being truthful,” Munn said. In that letter, Cagle’s office vouched for Stafford based on his work at EEI, where he “taught financial literacy to many students, educators, and community members.”

“Upon recommendation of my staff, I am confident that Furquan’s academic success, combined with his leadership roles and community service experience, make him deserving of selection for this prestigious award and recognition,” the recommendation stated.

Jackson, founder of EEI and Stafford’s second advocate, writes in his recommendation letter, “Mr. Stafford has served as longtime volunteer for EEI since our founding in 2001, performing over 45 hours of service.”

Stafford said he and Jackson have been friends for close to 18 years.

“I was with him when he first started it out. We’re talking about incorporating EEI here at Georgia State. Because one of the things I learned and experienced is when you come to college you get the credit cards and people not mature enough with finances you start making these decisions and purchases and stuff not knowing the folks want their money. Not knowing there’s an interest rate, not knowing that long-term it can affect your credit,” Stafford said.

Jackson told The Signal Stafford has been nothing short of “a blessing” to the organization and has been there since its inception.

While the award requirements state students must complete 100 hours of community service within the 2017 year, Jackson’s letter only mentions 45 hours of service.

University spokeswoman Andrea Jones told The Signal Stafford claimed to have “300 hours of service” with EEI in his application.

But, Jackson said that in Stafford’s 18 years of service, he’s sure the applicant has hit close to 100 hours, and that 45 is probably only “the tip of the iceberg.”

“In this role, Mr. Stafford has been responsible for delivering special EEI financial literacy programs on college campuses, K-12 schools, and with community partners,” Jackson’s letter states. Such programs, Stafford said, are what he and Jackson are thinking of bringing to Georgia State.

Jackson said he wished Georgia State had reached out sooner, so that they wouldn’t have withheld today’s award.


Last updated on Monday, April 16, 2018 at 1:23 p.m.

Please check back for updates. More about the disputes between Furquan Stafford and Georgia State in tomorrow’s issue of The Signal.