On March 10, the Edith Garland Dupré Library hosted their first discussion in their “Who Gets to Vote” series. Facilitated by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross Ph.D., the event was held on Zoom for those who were able to register in time. However, others were able to watch it through a livestream of the event on the Edith Garland Dupré Library’s YouTube channel. Acadiana Open Channel also streamed the event on their own YouTube channel.
The full event will consist of four discussions and was made possible due to a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant, which the Lafayette Public Library denied after citing concerns of bias. The UL Lafayette library took over the event, and will be facilitated by Cross and Theodore Foster, Ph.D., a UL Lafayette professor of history. UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie, Ph.D., sent out an email regarding the concerns of bias in which he defended Foster’s objectivity, and the fact UL Lafayette library will take over the event.
“Dr. Foster is a dynamic and thoughtful scholar of Black life, culture and politics in our nation,” Savoie wrote in the email. “That he is qualified to facilitate this discussion and provide context to it is without question. The University, its students and our wider community are fortunate to have him here.”
This week, participants of the event discussed “The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present” by Allan J. Lichtman. Litchman’s book discusses the history of suffrage and discusses modern occurrences such as gerrymandering and voter suppression.
After an introduction from Cheylon Woods, the head archivist of the Ernest J. Gaines Center, Cross took the floor and began leading the discussion. Rather than treating it as a lecture, Cross allowed it to work similarly to a Socratic seminar by asking questions that encouraged participators to describe their opinions and engage with one another.
Including Cross and Woods, there were ten active participants in the discussion, which included UL Lafayette students and staff voices.
Cross began the discussion by asking participants about their thoughts on Lichtman’s book and what stood out to them about it.
“For me, the book raised a lot of questions, and one of the questions I had was, ‘Who is Lichtman’s audience? Who is he writing this book for?’” a professor for the UL Lafayette Department of Management Vanessa Hill said. “Because it seems to me some of these things people are surprised about, in various communities and communities of color, we’ve known these things for quite some time. In those communities that were marginalized and that were disenfranchised, this is not anything new.”
As the conversation carried on, Cross continued to ask questions and participants responded eagerly and respectfully. In the live chat on the stream on the Edith Garland Dupré Library YouTube channel, viewers were quick to praise the participants for their statements.
All participants appeared to be of the same mind in their opinions, whereas Cross acted as a mostly unbiased voice.
The next discussion will be taking place on March 17 at 6:30 p.m. over Zoom. It will be streamed on the Edith Garland Dupré Library’s YouTube channel, as well as the Acadiana Open Channel’s YouTube channel. The book that will be discussed will be “Vanguard” by Martha A. Jones. Foster will facilitate the discussion.