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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

‘That was not my intent’: Faculty member responds to Lloyd Doggett’s suppression claim


U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s statement, provided via email, in response to his 2021 Inauguration Day video being removed from a virtual university program.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s video in which he condemned the U.S. Capitol insurrection was not played at Texas State’s virtual Inauguration Day ceremony due to a lack of time to receive approval, according to the faculty member who made the decision.
Doggett (D-TX) was originally invited to provide remarks at the university’s virtual program on Jan. 20, a non-partisan affair, after it was switched from an in-person format due to COVID-19 protocols.
While attending President Joe Biden’s inauguration, he was notified that his pre-recorded video, which includes quoted remarks from Republicans in Congress also condemning the Capitol attack, would not make the university ceremony — news he later describes, to the Austin American-Statesman, as a disappointment and suppression of his free speech.
Dr. Sherri Benn, chair of the Elections Task Force partly responsible for coordinating the event and assistant vice president for Institutional Inclusive Excellence – Student Initiatives, tells The University Star that she made the decision to not play the video due to a university protocol.
“It was a decision that essentially I made [on the morning of Inauguration Day] regarding whether or not to play the video — it wasn’t to pull it — but whether or not to play it,” Benn says. “There’s a policy statement [for governmental entities, including personnel]; it categorizes the interaction with governmental entities with nodes that are sort of in the regular course of business, and then those that are sort of exceptional. And this is an exceptional type of communication, and the policy states that it requires some up-line approval.”
Texas State’s UPPS No. 06-02-01, the policy Benn references which lays out protocols for communication with governmental agencies, describes routine contacts as communications made regularly in the course of university business “pursuant to an established written procedure,” and exceptional contacts as “communications other than routine contacts.”
It notes that university faculty and staff receiving exceptional contacts or requests for information from people representing governmental agencies should comply with those requests unless doing so would:

  • without authorization, purport to commit the university to a particular course of action, position or policy;
  • be unlawful or otherwise exceed the scope of authority of the university employee;
  • violate the standards of conduct for university employees established by the Texas State University System Board of Regents;
  • require substantial research or interfere materially with the university employee’s discharge of their duties and responsibilities.

The policy also states: “In all cases in which university faculty or staff employees initiate exceptional contacts or requests, they should, whenever practical, clear that contact or request with their supervisor in advance. When advance clearance is not practical, they should summarize the contact, in a timely manner, to their supervisor, and the contacts should be explained through channels to the appropriate vice president.”
Benn says a meeting took place on Jan. 15 to discuss the sudden virtual transition, while Dr. Mark Trahan, a member of the Election Task Force’s subcommittee for outreach and an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, says the video was requested from Doggett’s team the same day. The task force was forwarded the video on Jan. 19, as requested, a day before the ceremony was scheduled.
When it was time for the program to start, Benn says she did not have the time, due to her heavy involvement in other aspects of the program, to get the necessary approval from Dr. Lisa Lloyd, vice president for University Administration, who was also not immediately available at the time due to personal matters. She says she later spoke to Lloyd, who expressed no issue with the content in the video but supported the decision “based on protocol.” 
“I [essentially] had to make a decision because I hadn’t yet gotten it approved up-line,” Benn says. “And so the program had to go on… I had to make the decision either to not adhere to the policy eventually or to just play [the video] and make that call on my own without having added up the line.”
In response to Doggett’s claim of voice suppression, Benn says she understood why he felt that way, considering the task force asked him to create a video it did not use.
“That was not my intent,” Benn says. “I’ll say this openly: I’m a supporter of the congressman, and I don’t have any problems with the things that [he said]. For me, it was just a sort of protocol-iffy, though, because, in my capacity as the Election Task Force chair, content isn’t — can’t be the issue for me because my job isn’t to limit free speech or political speech for that matter in any way. But rather, it’s to coordinate non-partisan programming and educational activities for the campus.”
In a written statement to the Austin American-Statesman, a university spokesperson calls the decision to not play the video a “mistake” that was “made deep in the university organization without following university policy.”
Benn nor Trahan have spoken to the President’s Cabinet or University President Denise Trauth, who donated $500 to the Doggett for Congress campaign in February 2020 and told Doggett that she would have had no objection to the speech had it been brought to her attention, about the situation.
“I can tell you, I trust Dr. Benn’s leadership and believe in her,” Trahan says. “And I also have considerable respect for congressman Doggett. And I also have faith in Texas State University.”
According to Kate Stotesbery, communications director for Doggett, the congressman accepts Trauth’s expressed regrets.

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  • U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) waves to families and attendees at the Veterans Day Parade, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in downtown San Marcos. Doggett recently called out Texas State for opting not to use a video it requested from him — which includes a condemnation of the recent U.S. Capitol insurrection — in a virtual Inauguration Day program.

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