LSU Faculty Senate Meeting

LSU Faculty Senate President Mandi Lopez addresses the room on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, as the Faculty Senate meeting begins in the Howe-Russell Geoscience Complex in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU Faculty Senate leadership illegally entered an executive session Monday during a meeting, kicking all non-members out of the public meeting, including a Reveille reporter.

The meeting was originally slated to discuss a resolution introduced on Oct. 28 by Professor Bob Mann and other professors, which called for Faculty Senate President Mandi Lopez, Vice President Joan King and former president Kenneth McMillan to resign.

The decision to remove a reporter, or anyone for that matter, from this meeting for 25 minutes was an obvious affront to Louisiana’s open meeting laws done solely to shield those Faculty Senate members from public scrutiny.

Looks like that plan backfired, and now these leaders will have to face the consequences of their illegal actions against the state law ensuring that public bodies must permit members of the public to attend and witness their meetings.

Louisiana’s open meetings laws state plainly that a two-thirds affirmative vote is required to enter executive session.

Lopez took the vote to enter the executive session with recklessness and expedition: “Can we make it more quick?” she asked the Senate as she made a sweeping motion with her hands. She took a grand total of 10 seconds to count the votes in the room before answering one question and declaring the motion as passed.

From accounts of the vote itself, some professors couldn’t even tell that the vote had started before she finished it at seven votes in opposition: six in person and one on Zoom. It’s quite possible those seven voters were the only ones who knew what was happening in the moment.

How could the Faculty Senate so willfully violate the law? Did they just not know it existed?

An audio recording capturing the few minutes of the meeting after our reporter was ejected from the room shows that some faculty in attendance, including Mann, made it very clear that if Senate leadership wasn’t previously aware of the law violation, then they would be soon made aware of the risks associated with their decision.

And yet leadership continued for at least another 15 minutes after Mann left the executive session in protest, telling the president and other members that he would not participate because it “was not legal.”

Our reporter attended that meeting with the intention of providing coverage to the campus community about the dealings of the Faculty Senate, be it positive or negative. What she got instead was a willful violation of her right to be at that meeting.

Faculty Senate leadership egregiously denied this campus community its right to be informed on its proceedings. Even worse, Lopez told our reporter after the meeting that leadership plans on seeking legal counsel to defend itself, showing this Editorial Board little remorse for the illegal actions.

We can check with lawyers, too. And we did–with more than one. Their conclusions? The Faculty Senate is a public body under Louisiana open meetings laws. The Faculty Senate failed to meet the two-thirds vote requirement to retire into executive session. The Faculty Senate’s secret meeting was illegal.

We have grown all too used to a lack of transparency from higher administration like the Board of Supervisors in the last year, but the trickle-down of such patterns into Faculty Senate leadership is worrying to say the least.

Will Attorney General Jeff Landry hold the Faculty Senate accountable for its unlawful action? Will President William Tate IV or the Board condemn Lopez’s decision? Unlikely, based on track record.

It is the duty of media institutions such as The Reveille to hold these inept cowards accountable when governing agencies fail to step in, and Faculty Senate leadership tried to take away our ability to do just that. We will stay diligent in coverage and not bow to such mediocre attempts at censorship.

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