Balancing Prejudice and Prestige within the Carlson School of Management

Sam Ferreira, Contributor

In late February, a picture surfaced of a Carlson School of Management employee refusing to provide laptop services for a BIPOC student. The incident immediately triggered a massive response on social media. The photo was posted and reposted hundreds of times by University of Minnesota students and others. Many called out the university for its lack of response and inability to erase prejudice and racial profiling from the university.

The story circulated on social media goes as follows. A Somalian student entered Hanson hall and requested a laptop from an employee to complete school work. The employee refused and suspected the person to not be a student at the university. The student then presented various forms of identification including his university U-card to verify his identity and enrollment in the university. Despite all this, the employee continued to refuse to give the student a laptop. The student then took a picture of the employee and left citing racial prejudice and bias on social media. This started the chain reaction of many social media posts and a response from the university.

After a long summer of protests and racism being a front-page headline right next to COVID-19, lots of discussion about the topic of race has been had. The overarching storyline is that people of color deserve to be treated fairly and equally. The incident at Carlson School of Management comes on the coattails of dozens of different racial prejudice stories and events. The dance between prejudice and prestige is one instance where Carlson is having a difficult time handling. Dylaann Jagdeo, a student in the Carlson School of Management elaborates, “Carlson has always had difficulties balancing the geographical location it is in with the prestige of the school and buildings.” Carlson School of Management is located near Cedar-Riverside, which is a predominantly Somalian community. This location inevitably draws visitors to the gorgeous campus Carlson is located on. This along with the already extremely diverse student body within the University of Minnesota means identifying students from the general public is difficult.

Carlson has always had difficulties balancing the geographical location it is in with the prestige of the school and buildings

— Dylaan Jagdeo

Taking this into consideration, what is really happening at Carlson? In a letter sent to Carlson students, faculty, and staff Sri Zaheer, Dean of the Carlson School, said that the university is conducting a thorough investigation into the incident. Also, renewing the college’s policy of creating an inclusive and harassment-free community where everyone feels safe and welcome. The University of Minnesota in the past has been very supportive of the BLM movement and creating an extremely diverse campus. It is surprising such an event could occur on such a diverse campus.

A cautious reaction to this story is to wait, and to be patient. All the facts must be presented and the staff member is indeed innocent until he is proven guilty. However, the story and the response to it have already determined the staff member’s verdict. Regardless of what actually happened, the damage on social media has been done, Carlson School of Management’s name has been dragged through the mud. A reputation that once preceded itself as an inclusive and prestigious school is now being dubbed a racist school. This damage to the school’s reputation is almost irreparable, especially in the current political climate.

As seen with recent cancellations like Dr. Seuss, Aunt Jemima, and the Redskins, an NFL football team. Events like these simply cripple an organization or person’s ability to repair their reputation or give their side of the story. It is a sad but very real problem. How do we as a society balance racial prejudice and the truth? If this Carlson employee is discovered to be innocent what happens? How does Carlson repair its image or how does this employee come back from being abused on social media? It is a fine line to walk.

The one solution I see is to get the facts and making informed decisions. Obviously, if this employee was being racist, he should be immediately fired and the Carlson school has a lot of inward reflection to do. Something like that cannot go unpunished nor unattended. In today’s world, an organization as large and noteworthy as the University of Minnesota has no place for racial prejudice within it. The University owes its students faculty and staff the decency to rid itself of all prejudice and truly ensure that their campuses are as fair and unbiased as they claim to be.