The Louisiana gubernatorial elections has become a topic of increasing relevance, as the outcome of this intense election can be interpreted as a statement on Donald Trump’s influence in the state legislature. The two candidates for the runoff elections are democrat John Bel Edwards and republican Eddie Rispone, with Edwards running for re-election. Both politicians have touched on many topics, most notably in reference to the state of Louisiana’s education system. Edwards has been extremely vocal in his support of HBCUs, particularly Southern University and Grambling University.
Throughout the past week, the Southern University chapter of the NAACP and SGA have done their part in ensuring that students make their way to the voting polls. Over the course of four days, registered students were given the opportunity to be bussed to the Baker DMV and City Hall to participate in the runoff elections. SU NAACP president Kelsey Perine was vocal in her desire to amplify the voice of Black students, “I want students to know that they do not have to feel afraid of politics or the political process. I want students to feel like they have a say in the runnings of this state and community. I want students to understand that voting is demanding a seat at the table and participating in conversations about policies that affect us.”
Along with transportation, students were offered refreshments and entered into raffles as part of these events. Animal Science major Colby Bonier from Natchitoches, LA expressed her appreciation for this opportunity, “SU Votes hosting the ride to the polls encrypted in my mind how important it is to vote. I chose to participate because I wanted to exercise my right as a citizen of Louisiana and to make sure that my voice is accounted for.”
On that Wednesday, Governor John Bel Edwards came to Southern University to witness the organization and mobilization of students himself. Edwards encouraged students to continue their involvement and criticized Rispone’s stance on education: “This is what’s at stake if we go back to where we were, and we start entrusting those decisions to be made by someone who really believed that Bobby Jindal was a phenomenal governor… [Eddie Rispone] already said he wants to restructure higher education. This is what restructuring higher education would look like: it’s gonna mean cuts, it’s gonna mean consolidation and it would mean closures. Anytime there’s a problem with higher education, generally, there’s an acute problem at HBCUs...We’re in a much, much better place today because my administration and I, working with these legislators and others, have stabilized our state.” Edwards answered questions from various students as well as addressed topics relating to Southern, particularly the restoration and revival of Fisher Hall.
Dr. Barbara Carpenter, Dean of International Education and Representative of Districts 14 and 15, supported the activism of students both in presence and acclaim: “I think that students should be more proactive...Just this group that is here today means a lot. Because, I’m of that generation - back in the day - that we fought to get the rights to do this and that and go in these places. It starts with the students...The energy and action comes from the student body. Put the pressure on the legislature.”