Thursday, 26 April, 2018

CU: Group opposed to DeVos' commencement speech protests outside ceremony

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy De Vos speaks to the crowd at the ASU + GSV Summit at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City Tuesday CU: Group opposed to DeVos' commencement speech protests outside ceremony
Sandy Vega | 25 May, 2017, 02:57

Bethune-Cookman students collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition to stop Betsy DeVos from delivering her address.

Members of the Trump administration in attendance - assistant to the president, Omarosa Manigault and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos - were greeted with loud choruses of boos from graduates and audience members when they were announced by school officials.

Protesters pressured the university to rescind its invitation because of comments DeVos has made suggesting that historically black colleges and universities were "pioneers of school choice".

I guess maybe the lesson here is don't give a rich white woman an honorary doctorate to a historically black university when her biggest achievement is donating to the Republican Party. Beyond that, a Change.org petition was also started in an attempt to stop her from delivering the commencement address.

"As a fellow community leader, who is responsible for presiding over the legacy of such an historic and treasured institution, we deem your decision reckless, irresponsible and in direct conflict with the legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune". "Their success has shown that more options help students flourish".

"I believe (graduates) deserve a speaker who could relate to them as far as the struggle we go through within the education system, and I feel like she cannot relate in that aspect", Smith said.

Clifford Porter, assistant vice president for institutional advancement, said while the university is "very aware of the misstatement", he hoped Wednesday's event would be an opportunity to educate DeVos about HBCUs.

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"What makes the Bethune-Cookman University approach unusual", Nweze said, "is their plan to honor a person who has been on the job less than 100 days and has no record of advancing educational equity for all students". When university President Edison Jackson introduced her, the boo's rained down mercilessly.

Both DeVos and the Trump administration have endeavored to engage HBCUs in conversations about higher education, meeting with leaders of HBCUs and voicing support for their contributions.

"I'm all for building bridges, and I welcome Secretary DeVos to meet me and more undergraduate students. but not at a commencement speech where it's so one-sided", Smith said.

HBCUs were created in response to Jim Crow laws in the South that prevented black students from attending other schools.

DeVos' speech had to be interrupted to warn students that their degrees would be mailed to them if they persisted.

That proved futile, as DeVos did indeed speak.

"It's important to understand people will disagree", Jackson said.

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