Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero spoke to the George-Anne and the George-Anne Inkwell on Sept. 1 and spoke on a variety of topics ranging from his own personal life, to matters such as the university’s response to COVID-19.
Georgia Southern’s communications have repeatedly stressed the importance of transparency regarding information being passed down from the decision-makers to the students and faculty at each campus. Dr. Marrero echoed these sentiments while explaining how COVID-pertaining data is collected, and what information they are and are not able to provide.
“We’ll always share vaccination numbers that we do (administer). We can’t know where people go off to get vaccinated, and we can’t cross-correlate that. We’ve been asked ‘What’s the percentage?’ and we just don’t know. We only know who has gotten their vaccine with us, so if you ever want those numbers we will always share those with you.”
Students at Georgia Southern have had a variety of vaccination options at their disposal. In addition to Vaccine Clinics on campus, students have had the choice of any off-campus vaccination site including mass-vaccination sites, pharmacy-administered sites and others.
The day-to-day shift of information leads to shifts in reporting that can be difficult to predict and track simply due to the speed at which information changes regarding all aspects of the pandemic. Georgia Southern has had to come up with a standardized process to get information out in a consistent way.
“I may tell you there were 30 (case) reports yesterday, or 30 reports on Monday, but then they’ll be investigated, gone through by 59 of our contact tracers all being trained to go through, talk and find out. So those numbers shift… Monday morning everything gets looked through, confirmed, and then at noon on Mondays: This is all the cases we’ve had for the week.”
Dr. Marrero mentioned that Georgia Southern has several ways to confirm positive COVID tests on campus (health center, athletics department) but he stressed the importance of self-reporting in order to keep information accurate and up-to-date.
“Everything else that’s reported to us is voluntary, so people have to engage with us. We can cross-reference later with the DPH (Department of Public Health) because they’ll, a week or so later, let us know there was a case reported there.”
Georgia Southern’s president made sure to highlight the steps his team has taken to reach out and ensure transparency between the administration and those they work with and oversee. He emphasized that transparency is important regardless of context, and that the existence COVID-19 does not make the school more or less transparent than what it would be otherwise.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the only president in the University System of Georgia that meets and just has conversations, ask me anything. Send me questions upfront or right at the moment. We take minutes, it’s sent out, distributed, I mean that’s about as transparent as you can get.”
Dr. Marrero referenced his meetings with the Student Government Association and his biweekly meetings regarding inclusive excellence with the President-Student Advisory Council as well as the Faculty-Staff Committee. His meetings with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Staff Counsel also occur every two weeks.
While transparency may seem like a buzz-word to some, and has been used by other organizations as an easy appeasement method to turn away prying eyes, Dr. Marrero insists that transparency helps him and his team as much as it helps the students and faculty.
“I’d rather talk through things: I’ll tell you what I know and can tell you, but let’s solve this together and work together. No one will make everyone happy, and I like to make people happy, but I also have to lead.”
To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit Georgia Southern’s COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution, read COVID-19 Vaccine Virtual Town Hall, or watch COVID Vaccines Unmasked: Questions and Answers from an Immunologist.