Open Letter to Jere Morehead Graphic

Dear President Morehead,

I write to you today as someone with no confidence in your leadership. Be assured that while I’m just a lowly grad student, I speak for many other folks employed by the University of Georgia and in the broader Athens community. I’ll keep my comments brief — not because I have little to say, but because I want to make sure you and others can read this before public health experts “change” their guidance.

First, let me start by praising your bravery in teaching your one-hour, 12-student First Year Odyssey seminar. It’s truly a comfort to my fellow teaching assistants who are instructing 50 or more students in three-hour courses with breakouts to know that you’re joining us in the trenches.

Now that we’ve gotten sarcastic ego-stroking out of the way, let’s get started. We’re back on campus. Despite consistent warnings and protests from students and faculty, here we are. Even before we started, it was clear you had lost control of the situation. Hundreds of sorority hopefuls filled Tate Student Center “for a quick moment.” Maskless students tossed frisbees and footballs on Myers Quad. And students tipsy on freedom and booze packed some downtown bars.

Nevertheless, these pesky PR snafus were to be expected. And we cannot blame students for doing exactly what you repeatedly promised them over the summer: the college experience. At the end of the day, everything that happens is on you.

On Aug. 20, you told us that we must all “do our part to protect our UGA community from the spread of COVID-19.” Though you seem to think otherwise, the parts UGA community members are meant to play are not equal. It is entirely reasonable to expect a university president who makes nearly $1,000,000 a year to play a larger role than a service/maintenance worker making less than $30,000 or a freshman experiencing their first taste of independence.

That we’re even on campus shows that you’ve clearly failed on your part. An actual leader would have based plans on community data rather than arbitrary decisions made by the Board of Regents in April. At least an actual leader would have adapted these plans as cases throughout the state continued to rise, rather than praise and kowtow to the “leadership” of those Regents after it took weeks of constant pleading for them to do the bare minimum of requiring masks. Lastly, a leader who bases their decisions on data would not continue to defer to Regents when asked what will cause a pivot to online.

And that pivot will happen. Just look around. The question now is what will you do next? Will you change tack and actually lead, or will you continue to pass the buck? Will you take responsibility, or will you join your colleagues in throwing students under the bus?

Despite your insistence that health and safety are your first priority, your justifications for reopening have been financial. We must collect student fees to save jobs, you say. As one of many folks in the United Campus Workers of Georgia who have been calling for exactly that – let’s not forget hazard pay, by the way – it’s good to hear you care so much.

Again, we will pivot. So how will you continue to fight for people’s jobs? Will you be as adamant in fighting for guaranteed pay as you have in praising your inadequate plans? Will you still insist that no third parties influence your decisions when banks call for interest payments, or will these costs be more sacred than the wages of the people who form the foundation of the university? Moreover, will you break with the Board of Regents if the circumstances call for it? Instead of threatening layoffs, will you support a "chop from the top" and put your money where your mouth is? When it comes down to it, will you be Dawg Strong?

Sincerely,

Bryant K. Barnes

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(7) comments

gafan87

Numbers are down. Next.

gafan87

Maybe the author should consider a graduate program that is more closely aligned with his beliefs. Such vitriol and non-productive commentary. Personal choices to be where you are.

wjabbe

Why was a lawyer and teacher of Honor Students even selected for his million dollar soft job paid by taxpayers? The mask con is a joke; most of them are little more than dirty rags blocking Mother Oxygen from entering and preventing the most important function of breathing. Has this expensive lawyer read any articles by the late Fred Klenner, M.D. proving he cured all viral diseases through polio by 1949 with simple, safe and powerful Vitamin C and recommend to all faculty, students and others on campus to do the same for pennies per dose? Has he told students the common knowledge that almost all animals make and carry with them stores of Vitamin C but humans do not? If animals did not carry Vitamin C with them they would have vanished from Earth long ago. So how about humans who can't make it but can buy it for pennies per gram? Morehead does not have the intelligence or guts to lead UGA; he is a follower not a leader. Teaching honor students is the softest job on campus. Morehead should be fired and UGA returned to its days of glory when giants like John LeConte M.D. and his brother Joe or Lorenzo Moss, M.D., who should have shared the Nobel Prize given to Karl Landsteiner in Austria for discovery of blood groups were there. John LeConte lost everything in the Civil War but was appointed first president and first professor of physics at the newly formed UC Berkeley in 1868. The physics building I went in and out of every day from 1959-1961 was named LeConte Hall in his great memory. Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D. Physics citizen for 54 years.

Imme

Bryant,

When I read opinion pieces I obviously am going to get someone's opinion. I recommend that you practice backing your opinions with facts that matter. The president's pay and decisions 18 year old freshman make don't add much to the article. If anything it reflects your own lack of leadership and ability to think deeply on a topic. You should use this time as a grad student to improve these skills because a PhD is just a piece of paper. Your problem solving, communication skills, and tactics with soft skills will determine your future. Make sure your are not visiting any restaurants or friends if you're too nervous to teach on campus. Don't forget to get all of your necessities delivered. No stores for you. It's too dangerous.

Imme

Hedor304

I found the piece to be well reasoned and written and generously supported with links throughout. Your reply, on the other hand, has no supporting facts, an veers completely off-track with condescending notes about 'what he should learn in grad school' and calling him a scaredy cat.

sale1

One of the complaints lodged against the leadership of the University is that it isn’t providing enough information and isn’t sufficiently engaging in dialog with all of the stakeholders affected by its decisions. The decisions are made top-down without sufficient input from below.

We desperately need that dialog. I don’t think this opinion piece will help, though, even if I agree with some of the sentiment. The tone is more likely to shut down dialog and push the various groups further apart. It would have been better to have said, “These are the mistakes which were made”, and then “This is how they can be made right.”

Hedor304

I appreciate what sale1 is saying, but the nice, constructive approach hasn't moved the admin an inch -despite many attempts- so we also have to recognize that. so far no group, students, staff or faculty have leveraged their considerable power as a unit to force any concessions from the admin. An opinion piece like this can potentially mobilize a more concerted, bottom-up approach.

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