Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Complete Disregard of Safety Procedures for Board Members Shows an Extreme Lack of Leadership

I will start by saying that I will join my fellow alumni in calling for the immediate removal of Mori Hosseini from the Board of Trustees of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and, if that is not pursued, then the immediate resignation of President P. Barry Butler for abetting in this blatant offense toward the communities involved.

It was to my horror to come across social media images circulating about a University of Florida Board of Trustees retreat taking place at ERAU’s Student Union building with absolutely no regard for safety measures (no face coverings and no social distancing). ERAU’s Student Union building serves as the heart of the university, where all students pass through to eat, socialize, study or research in the library since everything is located in one centralized location. To allow such an irresponsible meeting to take place there is opening the doors for disaster, risking the health and safety of everyone present at the university and the local community.

It was shared that this retreat was set up by Mori Hosseini, who is the chairman of both ERAU and the University of Florida(UF) Boards of Trustees, to take place on ERAU’s Daytona Beach Campus — which means this was a long-planned event, having all the time in the world to plan and enforce safety measures. However, it seems safety rules and regulations do not apply to the Mori Hosseini’s Board of Trustees guests, whose members were clearly seen having their dinner with

· No face coverings

· No social distancing, neither when they were seated at the tables nor when they were huddled up shaking hands and socializing

· No plexiglass barriers at the tables, which the school has in its possession

A campus tour also happened during this time, which means that members of the Board of Trustees did not only think that they are not required to follow the safety procedures and guidelines set by the university and the State of Florida but also have the audacity to walk around the campus with such contempt for the safety of the students, faculty and community.

These actions are completely unacceptable. Period. There are absolutely no excuses.

University President P. Barry Butler released a statement by e-mail on Aug 28, 2020, saying,

“The event has served as a valuable learning opportunity.”

FALSE. ERAU has already learned and applied safety protocols and how to enforce them for months now. As far back as May 6, 2020, with the Path Forward plan, the university has been ready to deal with these circumstances.

[ERAU news article: Embry-Riddle Plans Lower-Density Operations for Summer B and Fall 2020]

The president continued, “Prior to the participants’ arrival on campus, each one went through enhanced screening protocols, including Covid-19 testing on every individual, all of which came back negative.”

This is an excuse and an extremely irresponsible statement by a so-called leader. This statement is guaranteeing that if a person tests negative, then they are somehow immune to becoming infected and do not have to adhere to the safety protocols or guidelines, which is FALSE and is something that would not be permitted for the faculty, the students or the public.

The president further stated, “We learned a lot from this experience and will continue to improve as we progress through these unprecedented times.”

The only thing that was learned here is how not to get caught blatantly disrespecting the communities ERAU is involved in — simply shameful.

The ERAU Student Government Association also released a statement on Aug. 28, 2020, stating,

“Chairman Hosseini and his guests attended a dinner in the Mori Hosseini Student Union [building] that was not in compliance with the University’s COVID-19 policies … The SGA [Student Government Association] Executive Board has heard you, and we agree that the actions of Mori Hosseini and the UF [University of Florida] Board of Trustees on Thursday were absolutely unacceptable … Everyone must be held to the same standard. Our safety is non-negotiable.”

The ERAU Student Government Association is indeed correct. Everyone must indeed be held to the same standard, and as I recall, the university released a statement earlier this week on Aug 23, 2020 over the actions of students at the volleyball courts who were not keeping social distancing. “Students who willfully violate Embry-Riddle rules will be subject to disciplinary action, potentially including immediate expulsion from our campus. You will not receive a refund if you are sent home for violating our rules.”

[ERAU news article: Volleyball Court Violations Won’t Fly at Embry-Riddle]

This statement says students will be expelled from the university without a refund. With this being the official procedure for dealing with violations, then it only stands clear that Mori Hosseini must also be expelled by the university for willfully violating its policies or, in his case, be immediately removed from the Board of Trustees and have his name removed from the Student Union without a refund.

Students who have come to the university to learn and be imprinted with our “excellent” (sadly, I have to use quotation marks when stating such facts now) safety culture cannot be held to a higher standard than a so-called professional and leader who has, in his many years, accumulated enough knowledge to know what not to do. Mori Hosseini, in his contempt, has insulted and disregarded ERAU’s global image regarding safety culture, respect, expertise and inherent value when it comes to safety in aviation. His action occurred during a period when thousands of aviation professionals have lost their jobs globally and many other thousands are on ongoing furloughs, with only daily hope they will not join the laid-off ranks, let alone the many aviation businesses that have had to shut down (and the nonaviation ones that have also suffered) due to these uncertain times.

Mori Hosseini has completely and nonchalantly insulted

· The ERAU community at large

· Local and global communities that are suffering during this crisis

· The global aviation community, as it faces unprecedented difficulties

· The value of the ERAU name and image, which affects the value of the degrees and certificates held by the alumni community everywhere. Due to this insolent event, it will become less respected and valued, diminishing the hard work of generations who have brought the name of Embry-Riddle to be known globally for its “excellence.” (sadly again, quotation marks are needed now)

For this action, he MUST be removed from the Board of Trustees if we are to start mitigating the damage he has caused to the image of the university.

University President P. Barry Butler managed to release another statement on Aug. 29, 2020:

“During a recent town hall meeting on reopening our campuses, I called on you to hold each other accountable, and I emphasized that safety is up to all of us. The analogy I used was that if you ever see me driving through a stop sign without stopping, you should report me.

“And you did. Thank you for sounding the alarm to hold university leadership just as accountable as we hold students, faculty and staff. We made a mistake by permitting guests on the Daytona Beach Campus to be in close proximity, at times without masks, this past Thursday. There is no other way to say it: We made a mistake. I accept full responsibility.

“On behalf of Embry-Riddle leadership, I sincerely apologize to all students and their families, as well as faculty, staff and alumni.”

These are empty words as usual, with no accountability. This event was not a mistake by any means. ERAU has had guidelines and protocols for months now, as stated earlier, and has been enforcing them for the students and faculty on a daily basis. This was an intentional disregard for those policies by those who think they are above following them. The offending parties are not being punished as students or faculty would be. This is just a deflection with pretty words to calm the students down. If you truly want to take responsibility, then join the call for the immediate removal of Mori Hosseini from the Board of Trustees or present your own resignation since you are not truly capable of taking responsibility.

The president further expressed, “Please be assured of three things: First, we have reviewed our guidelines related to third-party events, following our first attempt at such an event since the pandemic began, so that we do not make the same mistake again. Second, university leadership must absolutely adhere to the same health precautions set forth for students, faculty, staff and visitors. Third, we will have a team review protocols for all future third-party events. We remain committed to this guiding principle.”

First attempt? Excuse me? Is Embry-Riddle filled with amateurs and not professionals? This statement fully devalues ERAU once again, with your second point totally negating the first and third. Policies and guidelines were already released months ago and enforced, but now, you want to switch the narrative and blame it on a “third-party” event when you just stated university leadership must absolutely adhere to the same health precautions set forth for students, faculty, staff and visitors? The same health precautions that have been public and have been in practice for months? What a joke of a statement. This fully constitutes making excuses for the leadership to try and sweep the matter under the rug.

Furthermore, President Barry stated, “Although all guests at last week’s event had been carefully screened and tested for Covid-19 before arriving on our campus, social distancing was insufficient and face coverings were not consistently worn. Moreover, the appearance of the event, particularly as visitors were dining and talking without face coverings, was bad optics to say the least, as it appeared hypocritical and may have caused some of you to think that our rules are ‘good for thee, but not for me.’

“Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply made a wrong decision as we were planning last week’s event. We did not think through the choreography and human variables carefully enough. Again, we apologize and pledge to do better by you. Information on our rules for third-party events will be distributed in the coming days.”

This is what the apology is truly for — the bad optics of catching the leadership dismantling the safety culture of the university in one evening. The fact is that you did not just make a wrong decision and you did think this through; otherwise, this implies ERAU is being run by amateurs at safety — which, once again, devalues the university by pretending to ignore the procedures and guidelines already in place. The reality is you just did not care, until your hypocrisy came to light, and now, you have to try and shift the focus somehow so that being accountable becomes that much easier.

In an article posted by the university on May 21, 2020, it is stated:

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reopen the institution’s residential campuses in Florida and Arizona for face-to-face instruction on June 30. With health precautions in place, Embry-Riddle will resume face-to-face instruction in keeping with its Path Forward strategy, President P. Barry Butler announced today.”

[ERAU news article: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to Resume Face-to-Face Instruction on June 30]

Both you, President P. Barry Butler, and the Board of Trustees, of which Mori Hosseini is the chairman, have been very much aware of the safety guidelines and procedures for months now. Your excuses and deflections will not work this time. To President Butler, either be the leader the school needs you to be and demand for Mori Hosseini to be removed from the Board of Trustees or hand in your own resignation and let an actual leader lead this university toward a better future. Period.

To my fellow alumni and those students currently at the university, I have been made aware that there will be an accountability protest at the Henderson building on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, at 10 a.m. I may not be able to attend, but my thoughts will be with you. For those who are able, please attend and demand accountability, and please adhere to face covering and social distancing guidelines. Unlike our so-called leadership, show them the true foundation of ERAU’s safety culture. To those alumni and students who like myself are not present at the university, I call for you to please write in or call the university and make your voices heard.

This news comes at a time when our fellow students, faculty and alumni have already jumped into action to help their communities during this COVID-19 crisis since as early April 09, 2020 — fabricating masks and volunteering to help those in need, the true spirit of professionals who push forward with safety and take care of their communities.

[ERAU news article: Embry-Riddle Students Fabricate Thousands of Face Shields and More for Area Hospitals]

Do not allow our so-called leaders to bring down the ERAU value and respect with their contempt and utter disregard for the global communities that we are all part of and the people who are greatly suffering during these times.

With much dismay,

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