Louisiana AG Calls on LSU to Punish Professor for Criticizing Official After Faculty Senate Meeting | News

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called on LSU to punish mass communication professor Bob Mann for insulting his assistant on Twitter following the Dec. 7 LSU Faculty Senate meeting.

Mann called Assistant Attorney General Lauryn Sudduth a “lackey” for Landry after she appeared at the last meeting of the Faculty Senate.

“[Mann’s] disparaging remarks about this former LSU student cannot be without consequence,” Landry tweeted Wednesday. “I have spoken with President Tate and expressed my disdain and expectations of accountability.”

Mann called on LSU to defend faculty’s free speech rights following the attorney general’s comments.

“Landry should have someone in his office explain the First Amendment to him,” Mann told Le Reveille. “Citizens, even college professors, always have the right to criticize elected officials and the officials who work for them.”

Keith Whittington, chair of the academic committee of the Academic Freedom Alliance, sent a letter to LSU President William Tate IV asking the university not to take action against Mann, calling Landry’s request a “clear threat for [Mann’s] academic freedom”.

“Regardless of what one thinks of Professor Mann’s tweet, the only appropriate action LSU should take in this situation is to publicly reaffirm the free speech rights of its faculty members,” Whittington wrote.

In a statement to The Reveille, LSU President William Tate IV said, “As President of LSU, I am deeply committed to First Amendment rights. LSU is committed to free and open scholarship and the freedom to debate ideas and principles without interference.

Landry’s assistant, Sudduth, appeared at the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday on Landry’s behalf to read a letter condemning a Faculty Senate resolution sponsored by Mann and several other professors. The letter was signed by Landry.

The resolution in question, 21-06, “A Call to Bring LSU’s Immunization Mandate into Compliance with State Law and National Guidelines,” directs LSU to test unvaccinated and partially vaccinated students weekly and asks the university to update its COVID vaccination exemption procedure.

Landry’s letter seemed to misunderstand the resolution.

“Louisiana students have the legal right to opt out of otherwise required vaccines by simply dissenting,” Landry wrote. “Nothing in state law authorizes a school to overrule a student’s written dissent.”

The resolution does not ask the university to abolish the exemption process or overrule a student’s dissent. Instead, it asks the university to require a written statement from students requesting an exemption rather than the current withdrawal procedure, which only requires students to tick a box indicating the type of exemption they are requesting.

Landry’s letter also disputes that LSU has a vaccine mandate.

“I think mandating the COVID-19 vaccine instead of recommending the COVID-19 vaccine is problematic,” Landry wrote.

While the Faculty Senate and Faculty Council asked LSU to implement a vaccine mandate in the months leading up to the fall semester, LSU did not implement a mandate until August, after approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the United States Food and Drug Administration and the university received approval from the Louisiana Department of Health.

“Any attempt to retaliate against or discriminate against a student who chooses to disregard vaccination mandates would be a violation of state law, and could subject the university and its employees to legal action or liability,” Landry wrote.

Although the resolution asks the university to apply a stricter testing protocol to unvaccinated students, the university already selects unvaccinated students to be tested once a month.

“As I listened to his letter being read, I got the impression that he hadn’t read the resolution and didn’t know what it was saying,” said philosophy professor Jeffrey Roland, the one of the sponsors of the resolution.

After hearing Sudduth, the deputy attorney general, and others about the resolution, the faculty senate voted to delay action on it until January at the suggestion of political science professor Daniel Tirone, who said the sponsors wanted to observe the development of the Omicron variant before recommending action.

The attorney general also included misinformation about COVID in the letter unrelated to the resolution. Landry falsely claimed that COVID-19 is not a vaccine-preventable disease.

“Vaccine preventable” refers to the ability of a vaccination to “significantly reduce the high rate of morbidity and mortality inflicted by a pathogen on a population in the absence of widespread deployment of a vaccine”, said Louisiana health officer Dr. Joe Kanter. December 6 House Committee on Health and Welfare meeting, where Landry made the same assertion.

People vaccinated against COVID-19 are six times less likely to contract the disease and 14 times less likely to die from it, Kanter said. The CDC and LDH have been clear in stating that COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and effective against the virus.

Attorney General Jeff Landry did not respond to Le Réveil’s request for comment.

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