Who is Furquan Stafford?

The honorary degree nominee alleges racist practices.


Written by Christina Maxouris, Photography by Vanessa Johnson • April 17, 2018

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Update: On Wednesday, Aug. 15, Furquan Stafford filed a civil libel lawsuit against Georgia State University President Mark Becker and Georgia State for $100 million.

Court documents delivered to The Signal by Stafford stated, “On the 17th day of April, 2018, the Defendant (Becker) intentionally and maliciously published false, injurious, libelous and defamatory statements about Plaintiff (Stafford) in The Signal.”

Stafford’s lawsuit references the below article.

Two months ago, GSTV released a Panther Report on an individual they claimed was a doctorate student and Georgia State’s No. 1 fan. That same person was set to receive Georgia State’s President’s Volunteer Service Award yesterday, honoring students with exemplary community service.

But Furquan Stafford isn’t a doctorate student. He’s not a Georgia State student at all.

Now, he’s claiming he’s in pursuit of an honorary doctorate degree from Georgia State, but that Georgia State University President Mark Becker is standing in his way.

“It is what it is because of the color of my skin and me being a dark-skinned black male. However, you know, I thought maybe Becker (…) would judge me on my fruit. When I say my fruit, [I mean] the things I’ve done,” he told The Signal.

Furquan Stafford, photographed by The Signal

Who is Furquan Stafford?


The honorary degree nominee alleges racist practices.


Written by Christina Maxouris, April 17, 2018

Update: On Wednesday, Aug. 15, Furquan Stafford filed a civil libel lawsuit against Georgia State University President Mark Becker and Georgia State for $100 million.

Court documents delivered to The Signal by Stafford stated, “On the 17th day of April, 2018, the Defendant (Becker) intentionally and maliciously published false, injurious, libelous and defamatory statements about Plaintiff (Stafford) in The Signal.”

Stafford’s lawsuit references the below article.

Two months ago, GSTV released a Panther Report on an individual they claimed was a doctorate student and Georgia State’s No. 1 fan. That same person was set to receive Georgia State’s President’s Volunteer Service Award yesterday, honoring students with exemplary community service.

But Furquan Stafford isn’t a doctorate student. He’s not a Georgia State student at all.

Now, he’s claiming he’s in pursuit of an honorary doctorate degree from Georgia State, but that Georgia State University President Mark Becker is standing in his way.

“It is what it is because of the color of my skin and me being a dark-skinned black male. However, you know, I thought maybe Becker (…) would judge me on my fruit. When I say my fruit, [I mean] the things I’ve done,” he told The Signal.

Who is Furquan Stafford?

Graduating from Benjamin Banneker High School in College Park, GA, in 1991, Stafford continued on to receive his Associate’s degree in Pre-Nursing from McCook Community College, in McCook, Nebraska. Bouncing from Texas Southern University to Prairie View A&M to San Jacinto Pasadena College, Stafford eventually found his way to Georgia State in 1996.

It was then when he realized he wanted to follow in Dr. Charles Drew’s footsteps. Drew, known as “the father of the blood bank,” was the first African-American physician to develop and process blood plasma storage methods. Drew coordinated U.S. and British efforts for blood transfusions but resigned shortly after finding out African-American blood was being separated from Caucasian blood.

Drawing his inspiration from Drew, Stafford withdrew from his courses, and started his own blood plasma company, C.P. Plasma Center, Inc.

C.P. Plasma Center, Inc., registered with the Secretary of State of Georgia in 1998, was Stafford’s attempt at creating the first African-American owned and operated plasma center. Not yet licensed and registered with the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and currently with no employees, Stafford says he’s in the middle of a lawsuit that would break the monopoly within the blood plasma industry.

“I saw that there was a disparity economically in [the black] community and health-wise and I felt, you know what, let me be the voice of the blood community and I said you know what there’s an injustice here. If we’re good enough to donate plasma then we should be good enough to be operators,” Stafford said.

A non-traditional education

Stafford came back to class in the summer of 2017, when he said he wanted to experience college alongside his wife. He enrolled in two courses, one of which was business law for entrepreneurs. He began taking the course, but in debt and without financial aid coverage, Stafford was dropped from his courses.

“My wife was at the Commons in the computer lab doing her homework, and I told her what happened and I started to cry, we both cried,” Stafford said.

“So then she was like, why don’t you ask [the professor] if you can just come to class because I know that you’re going to benefit from this because of dealing with the business law from entrepreneurs.”

And Stafford did. He emailed Ryan Grelecki, his professor at the time, explained his financial trouble, and Grelecki allowed him to take the class at no cost – a decision that the university says is against the regulations.

Georgia State’s registration guide states that “enrolled students who wish to audit a course must get approval from the course instructor. Registration for an audit should be submitted to a campus Enrollment & Registration Services Center.”

The Signal’s investigation found that no such audit form was submitted by either Stafford or his professors. University spokeswoman Andrea Jones confirmed that even under auditing procedures, there are no courses that Georgia State students can take at no cost (unless they are enrolled within the GSU-62 program).

Grelecki said he allowed Stafford to continue with the class in efforts to help him out. He said he wasn’t aware of the policy, and was “simply just trying to do right by a student who’s interested in the subject matter.”

“He was an active participant in the class, he was taking advantage of the materials, [was] very participatory,” he said. “He was someone who had a lot of life experience, and the information he shared in the class was very valuable with other students.”

Why an honorary degree?

In the fall, Stafford attended a business negotiation course – again at no cost – with Dr. Edward Miles, the professor that would go on to nominate him for an honorary doctorate degree.

Honorary doctorate degrees are awarded by universities to individuals for exceptional lifetime achievements.

As Priceonomics puts it, “the honorary degree has provided an opportunity for colleges to build relationships with the rich, famous, and well-connected.”

The last honorary doctorate degree given out by Georgia State was British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour in 2010. Amanpour is CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, host of the Amanpour show on CNN, and the Global Affairs Anchor of ABC News.

Stafford claims that when Miles, a Georgia State managerial sciences professor, asked him what else he wanted to do at Georgia State, he had specific goals in mind.

“I told him I want to be the commencement speaker for a graduating class and I wanna be the speaker for an incoming freshman class and I’d like to have my name on that research building [Research Science Center] for my research in plasma and I said someday I’d like to get my honorary doctorate degree here, cause I think I’ve put enough work,” Stafford said.

Miles offered to nominate him for an Honorary Doctorate degree, saying he had been on the Commencement Committee with former president Carl V. Patton and the current president, and knows what they look for in deciding an honorary degree recipient.

The Signal reached out to Miles, but he declined to comment.

With the recommendation in by November 2017, Stafford said he was hoping to receive the honor in December, and is now looking towards spring commencement.

“This is not feasible,” spokeswoman Andrea Jones said. “The commencement committee will not consider honorary degree candidates until its fall meeting in fall 2018. No honorary degrees will be awarded in May.”

And none were awarded last December either.

In hopes of expediting the process, Stafford reached out to Becker to set up a meeting, to convince the president to recommend Stafford to Georgia’s Board of Regents (BOR) as one of the Honorary Doctorate degree recipients. Based on records obtained by The Signal, Stafford reached out through email, LinkedIn and Facebook, but did not receive a response.

Brenda M. Trezvant, BOR Executive Assistant, informed Stafford that per BOR policy, until the the school’s committee “gives their selection for those students for an honorary degree to the president,” and the president submits his selection, they have no say or action in the process.

And even then, Jones said that the honorary doctorate degree award is a rare happening.

“Honorary degrees from research universities such as Georgia State are typically awarded to individuals in recognition of extraordinary lifetime achievements or far-reaching societal impact,” she told The Signal.

“The distinction is rare and highly selective.”

As for his wrong “doctorate student” identification during a GSTV Panther Report episode, Stafford said the only thing wrong about that is that the word “honorary” wasn’t added to it.

“That’s what I’m in this for, my honorary doctorate degree. The only thing I felt was wrong about that was that it didn’t have ‘honorary’ on there,” he said. “That’s it.”

And why not just pursue a doctorate degree? Stafford said that’s not enough.

“I want honorary. Because not everybody can get one of those. My work has gone across the seas and I’ve never been there yet and so when I have respect from the Governor’s office, and the state Capitol and celebrities and stuff, and [to] get mistreated like this from the president of [Georgia State], it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

“Why didn’t they reach out to me and say ‘come to my office, let’s talk.’That’s what real men do. But Becker’s mindset is, and this is my opinion, he’s treating me like property, and that’s where I got an issue with it.”

Competing claims

Stafford says the lack of communication between the university and himself has everything to do with race. A claim that Jones said was “ridiculous.”

“Race plays absolutely no role in the awarding of honorary degrees,” she said.

In February 2018, Stafford filed a complaint with the Legal Affairs and Associate Vice President of Human Resources office against president Becker, claiming that he was being discriminated against by the university.

Despite being told his nomination was received and will be reviewed by the committee once they meet in the fall of 2018, Stafford says university actions have led him to believe there’s racism involved.

One day after the complaint, Stafford claims his Panther ID and email were disabled.

“The individual’s PantherCard and email account were deactivated because he was disruptive to university operations and considered inactive by the Registrar,” Jones told The Signal.

“He has attempted to use his PantherCard to gain unauthorized access to campus facilities and used his student email account to mislead others to believe he is a current Georgia State student.”

Jones also said there have been reports of Stafford following students into the dining hall without paying.

“We have let the police department know to be on the lookout should he try to access university resources without paying,” she said. “Stafford is trying to use for free the services and facilities for which Georgia State students spend their hard-earned money.”

And that’s what Stafford said hurts the most. “Ain’t nobody say nothing to me,” he said.

“That’s crazy that they’re saying that I’m accessing stuff illegally. It really saddens me that I’m even talking about Becker in the manner, you know because I’m a fan of his work, of how he’s expanded his university, but it’s a Jim Crow environment here. And what I mean by that is, we African-Americans are probably the number one percentage of students that attend this university… [but] if you go to his cabinet, do you see a black person? That says a lot.”


Disclaimer: The Signal and GSTV are separate, independent student media outlets both under the Committee on Student Communications at Georgia State. GSTV and Signal investigations on the issue were separate.