Dr. Kyle Marrero Talks Book Burning and Spring Commencement
Madison Watkins, Editor-in-Chief
Homecoming is over, Halloween is here and Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, which means finals will be here before we know it.
This semester has been eventful to say the least. Students and faculty have been wondering what the president has to say about the most recent events and what’s in store for the future.
The George-Anne Inkwell Edition editors sat down for the monthly interview with University President Dr. Kyle Marrero, who was joined by John Lester, to discuss the book burning, on campus housing issues and the spring commencement ceremonies.
Book Burning Incident
The Oct. 9 book burning incident on the Statesboro campus was widely covered by national news. Some publications and organizations like the free expression nonprofit organization, PEN America, criticized the administration’s response to the incident by not going “further in condemning this act for the intolerance it represents.”
“I agree with that statement completely,” said Marrero when the subject was brought up during the interview.
“My job is to uphold the Constitution of the United States as hard as that is… my position and my job is to ensure that those rights of freedom of expression can be expressed on a campus. Even if I hate the speech and the expression of what has happened.”
Marrero then brought up an article that was published by the free speech rights nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that praised Marrero for how the incident was handled.
“The First Amendment can be frustrating. It can be frustrating to hear views we find distasteful, offensive or outright wrong. But that’s part of the deal. We don’t get to unilaterally decide when someone else’s speech is so distasteful, offensive or wrong that it loses constitutional protection. And in turn, no one gets to unilaterally make that decision about our own speech. FIRE encourages other schools facing possible controversies to follow a similar path. By speaking out loudly, clearly and early, Marrero may have avoided a larger controversy,” said the author of the article Daniel Burnett.
On the subject of whether or not he thinks this will negatively affect enrollment, “I think enrollment will be a struggle regardless. When we look at the population of 18 year olds coming up as a demographic, the competition in the state and region etc…I hope they can see through this and they can see how ‘this is an institution that I want to go to because I can be a part of building that environment’ of what everyone desires to have,” said Marrero.
On the topic of whether or not there is a crisis PR plan in place, “Yes, of course. We have an entire crisis plan, everything. We have holding statements ready. Yet from each individual instance we still go through an approval process. It’s to make sure that it fits exactly to that but we have holding statements ready for any and then a process of investigation that’s immediate and expedited. We will never work at the speed of social media because we have a responsibility of getting it correct.”
The next question was do you plan on reaching out directly to the author to apologize, he responded, “I think that has been expressed inmany different ways. My position is to ensure that the rights of our students are protected and that we go through all of our processes. We certainly respect the author and her book is our common read, that’s the greatest respect we can we can show to the author.”
Marrero confirmed that the spring commencement ceremony for Armstrong students will be on this campus.
“We’re trying to make an indoor or outdoor decision now and look at all of our options. So the options will be either sports center and probably have two ceremonies depending on the numbers of graduates… We’re exploring an outdoor option too if we could do it somewhere on campus outside.”
Marrero said the final decision of the venue for the ceremonies will be announced in the next few days.
As part of his final thoughts, Marrero brought up the analogy of looking at the horizon and not fixating on the seat directly in front, “looking at the horizon of where we need to go. If we can overcome and look at the positivity and direction and believe, then we’ll get there.”