The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate added resolutions to its next meeting agenda calling for the University of Georgia administration to address its handling of the Baldwin Hall remains at a Sept. 17 meeting. The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Baldwin Hall presented the resolutions to the Senate for consideration.
The move comes nearly five months after the Senate approved a report condemning UGA’s handling of the human remains uncovered at Baldwin Hall in 2015. UGA administrators intimidated faculty members who conducted research on slavery, the report alleged. The Senate will vote on whether to approve the resolutions directed to UGA President Jere Morehead at its Oct. 15 meeting.
Resolution No. 1 urges Morehead to issue an apology to the descendants of the people whose remains were uncovered at Baldwin. Resolution No. 2 urges Morehead to consult with the public regarding the treatment of the remains and the best methods to identify the direct descendants through genetic analysis.
“The rights of the descendant community were not sufficiently respected by UGA’s manner of exhuming, reburying, and researching the graves and human remains discovered in the Old Athens Cemetery,” resolution No. 1 said.
Senators also discussed UGA’s treatment of anthropology professor Laurie Reitsema, who conducted much of the research of the Baldwin Hall site. The Ad Hoc Committee on Baldwin Hall said Reitsema was criticized by UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor after Reitsema gave a presentation on the research of the remains to the Faculty Senate in March 2018.
Trevor wrote an opinion article published by The Athens Banner-Herald on March 22, 2018. The article criticized Reitsema and defended the university’s handling of the situation. The third resolution urges Morehead to instruct the UGA Office of Media and Communications to apologize “for targeting Dr. Reitsema.”
“It is unacceptable for UGA media spokespersons and other University officials publicly to offer negative remarks about the actions, speech, or writing of faculty in areas of their disciplinary expertise unless there is overwhelming evidence that faculty members are in the wrong,” resolution No. 3 said.
The proposed calls for a public apology and public consultation build upon community members’ demands that UGA acknowledge its history with slavery, create reparational scholarships and raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. UGA has repeatedly defended its handling of the Baldwin Hall remains — Morehead himself did so in an April 2019 letter to The Red & Black.
Senators approved adding resolution No. 1 to the Oct. meeting agenda in a straw poll with one senator voting no. Resolutions No. 2 and No. 3 were not voted on.
Olivia Adams contributed to this article.