Southeastern to welcome Gov. John Bel Edwards in Louisiana Symposium


Southeastern Louisiana University is welcoming Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to campus on Sept. 27 as part of a two-day symposium to discuss blaring issues within the state. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Southeastern’s Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies (CSLS) will be hosting “Louisiana in Continuity and Change: Challenges Past and Present Confronting the Bayou State,” a symposium designed to address the issues Louisiana endures head-on and provide potential solutions for bringing about meaningful change in the future. 

The symposium will feature presentations from scholars from around the state. Within this lineup are two Southeastern faculty members, Dr. Keith Finley and Dr. Samuel Hyde. Hyde also serves as the director for CSLS

“Each speaker will have thirty minutes allotted for their lecture, with a presentation in the background, and then 15 minutes for questions moderated by faculty, running about 45 minutes per person,” said Lauren Guillory, a graduate assistant and student worker for CSLS. 

The symposium will begin Tuesday at noon, and will officially close at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Each lecture will be held in Room 2115 of the Student Union Theater. 

The Tuesday sessions will culminate in Gov. Edwards’ presentation at 6 p.m. entitled “1896-2022: The Pardon of Homer Plessy and its Impact on Racial Justice,” and concluding with a presenter’s reception immediately following his presentation at 7 p.m.

Themes of racial prejudice, gender inequality, coastal erosion, climate change and K-12 education during Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration are just a few of the issues speakers will cover during the symposium. Dr. Hyde’s presentation, “As Louisiana as Crawfish Pie: Endemic Violence and Non-Unanimous Jury Verdict” will take place Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. 

“[Hyde’s lecture] is about the non-unanimous jury verdict and its effects on incarceration, and how that has contributed to Louisiana being the state with the highest rates of incarceration, and how we should take steps to address that,” he explained.

Alongside the symposium, CSLS will also be opening an exhibit in their office on the third floor of the Sims Memorial Library. Their exhibit will serve as a continuation of the symposium’s educational efforts while broadening the scope to cover more historical topics and themes.

“The exhibit will officially open Tuesday along with the symposium, covering challenges discussed within the symposium, along with unique topics such as West Florida Parishes, political and civil instability, history pertaining to health care and substance abuse and environmental topics such as wetland erosion,” Guillory said. 

The exhibit is a walkthrough, spanning much of the history of Louisiana, and features multiple artifacts from bygone eras, such as the “Sherman tie,” which, as Guillory explained, is a piece of railroad track that during the Civil War, the Union Army bent and damaged in order to sabotage the Confederates’ railroad supply chains. 

CSLS’ exhibit will be open to visitors through March 2023, and they are looking forward to helping educate visitors about the history of their state. 

“We’re really excited and we’ve worked really hard to put on a great exhibit for everyone,” said Brooklyn Sherrod, a student worker for CSLS. 

The underlying theme running beneath both the symposium and the exhibit is the pursuit for solutions that will enact a positive turn for the direction of our state. 

For Guillory, taking a closer look at the state’s history is essential for the development of a better Louisiana in the future.

“We discuss the history of potential solutions within the state that didn’t come to fruition, and through the lecture there will be discussions of implementing potential solutions in the future,” Guillory said. 

Hyde agreed with this sentiment. 

“Louisiana is a complex state that shares many of the challenges confronting other states of the union, but that also faces some very unique problems. The purpose of the symposium is to reveal critical challenges that have burdened Louisiana in the past and explain how they were overcome, or managed, to offer a guide for solving similar problems in the future,” Hyde said. 

He also stated he wants this event to be an outlet for education for every Louisianian in attendance, providing them with an enhanced perspective on the conditions of their state. 

“One thing is certain,” Hyde said, “Everyone who attends all, or even parts, of the symposium is certain to have a more enlightened view of the most curious state in the nation.”For more information regarding the symposium and the exhibit, contact the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at (985) 549-2151, or through their email, [email protected].