Some faculty members of Louisiana Tech recently walked out of the school's commencement ceremony in protest of an award being given to Phil Robertson, star of the A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty."
The three faculty members who chose to walk out of the commencement ceremony did so due to remarks Robertson made regarding homosexuality in a December 2013 interview with GQ Magazine. The small protest happened after members of the LGBT student group Prism organized a social media campaign once they were made aware of Robertson's award on Friday, one day before the commencement ceremony was to take place.
Although Robertson did not attend Saturday's graduation event, his wife, Miss Kay, and son, Alan, received the award in his place. The award, known as the Tower Medallion, was meant to recognize Robertson as a distinguished alumnus of the university.
Louisiana Tech released a statement following the small protest, clarifying that the award was given to Robertson by the Louisiana Tech Alumni Association, not the university. The school also said in its statement that it's common for the award's recipient to be announced only one day before the commencement ceremony. In their social media campaign, Prism members and Louisiana Tech faculty expressed frustration that they weren't given adequate notification of Robertson's award, and were therefore not able to react appropriately.
"The right to express and debate differences in opinions, ideologies, and values is at the core of a university community, and Louisiana Tech certainly supports its faculty in this exercise of free expression," the statement from the university, provided to KNOE-TV, reads.
The school went on to argue that although the faculty members chose to protest Robertson's award, the real focus of Saturday's commencement ceremony should remain on the 957 graduates of the university.
"Despite the decision of the three faculty members who opted to protest the award recipient, the focus for Louisiana Tech remained on recognizing the 957 students who successfully completed their studies and honoring them for their achievements. We are extremely proud of what they have accomplished and look forward to them representing us as Louisiana Tech alumni."
Hannah Ellsworth, president of Prism, said in a statement to the local media outlet that the purpose of Saturday's protest was to show the group's disapproval of Robertson's honoring, and to also protest the short amount of notification time they were given regarding the reality star's award recognition.
"We wanted to make a statement displaying our disapproval of the honoring, and for several reasons, including the minimal time we were given to react, a social media campaign was the best way to do this. Faculty, staff, and students didn't have any time to give input since no one knew until the day before."
In December 2013, Robertson said in a GQ Magazine interview that his Christian beliefs led him to view homosexuality as a sin, paraphrasing a verse from Corinthians that also describes adultery, drunkenness, and greed as sins.
Robertson received criticism for his comments, and was briefly suspended from appearing on his A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" that follows the lives of him and his family as they run their Duck Commander business in West Monroe.
Despite criticism, Robertson received support from religious and political leaders, who defended Robertson's First Amendment right to express his religious beliefs. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was one of several to release a statement supporting Robertson, saying: "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views."