Officials at the the University of Louisiana at Lafayette say they have applied for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant to host a program about the history of voting rights in the United States.

 

University spokesman Eric Maron provided KPEL with the following statement when asked about the grant:

Free expression of ideas is the cornerstone of the UL Lafayette environment of intellectual inquiry. Open and balanced dialogue is fundamental to the university's academic mission of advancing the public interest through discourse about vital political and social issues.

Maron says a decision from LEH could come in the next couple of weeks. Participants would read and discuss one book each week. The discussions would be similar to a college seminar course. The participants themselves would talk about the book and whether they agree or disagree with the points made by the author. The facilitator would help guide the discussion but would not necessarily give his/her opinion.

News of UL's application came when Sen. Gerald Boudreaux (D-Lafayette) issued a statement condemning the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control's decision. Boudreaux's full statement is below.

First, I want to commend Mrs. Teresa Elberson on an outstanding professional career spanning over thirty-eight (38) years. Her service in the Lafayette Parish Library System has been duly noted and greatly appreciated.

 

I also want to applaud and commend Dr. Joseph Savoie and the entire faculty at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Their timely assistance in coordinating the transfer of the “Conversation on the history of voting in the United States” from the Lafayette Public Library where the board has chosen politics over our people, culture and history. I witnessed the work of Dr. Jean Kreamer, Mrs. Sonya Branch, Ms. Sona Dombourian, Andrew Duhon and so many others as they elevated our library system to one of the most respected by all in the State of Louisiana.

 

The actions, comments and decision by the Library Board of Control in rejecting a community grant to have a discussion of past voting rights issue is incomprehensible. The question was raised as to the other side being represented and part of the discussion. The college professors who worked with the professional library staff indicated in the approved proposal that the entire spectrum would be covered in the discussions/presentations. Allow me to answer the question, the other side falls in the category of “Jim Crow Laws” and the “KKK”. I agree we do need to discuss the other side, as history has proven that if we ignore the past we will be doomed to relive those dark days. Many members of the community and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette have answered the call to negate the intentions of a few political appointments. Remember, we are talking about a $2,700.00 grant to have a conversation about past Voter Suppression in the United States. The November 2020 elections are over and have been validated by Congress and the Supreme Court. We must move on as a community and a country!

 

The negative comments and actions are destructive and this rhetoric contributes to chaos, confusion and events that divide instead of uniting our community and country. It serves to incite actions that are not consistent with the theme of Unity. Individuals appointed to boards and commissions must make decisions based on facts and input from the citizens that are impacted by the programs.

The university decided to apply for the grant after the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control voted to decline the $2,700 payment to host the program. That decision led to the resignation of library director Teresa Elberson. In a statement, board president Doug Palumbo said Elberson "disregarded the board's clear directive requiring her to secure two facilitators from opposing political sides for the program." However, KPEL examined the minutes from both the December and January board meetings, during which the program was discussed. According to those minutes, board members issued a directive in neither of those meetings. According to the December minutes, board member Stephanie Armbruster requested that the "program and the library remain apolitical and neutral" and "suggested two speakers from opposing sides to offer opposing views."

KPEL reached out to library board president Doug Palumbo for further comment. He has not yet responded.