In a shocking display of unity, a group of graduating students expressed their disdain for the Secretary of Education on Wednesday as she attempted to give a commencement address.
DeVos, a particularly unpopular appointee of the Trump administration, seemed intent on giving her congratulations and ‘wise’ words to the students in caps and gowns, but the persistent boos from the students and audience drowned her out. Even as school administrators tried to threaten the students into silence, saying they would cancel the event if the booing continued, the students remained strong.
Even as DeVos charged on with her address, ignoring the ongoing boos and jeers, members of the audience turned their back to the Education Secretary in a sign of disrespect.
DeVos attended the graduation at Bethune University, a member of the Historically Black College & Universities. Though the protest at the graduation may be the first most of us have heard about this event, it turns out that students and alumni at Bethune University had been trying to keep DeVos away from graduates’ big day for quite some time.
Outside of the event and before the graduation took place, protesters marched with signs calling for DeVos to excuse herself from the event and criticizing her role. “DeVos bad 4 public school,” and “Graduates deserve better,” were just some of the signs held by protesters.
Previously, students and alumni had signed petitions, called for the university’s president to resign, and even threatened to mail back their degrees in protest of the decision to invite DeVos to speak at the graduation.
The school’s opposition to DeVos is particularly warranted as the Education Secretary once referred to HBCU’s as the “pioneers of school choice.” Because these historically black centers of education came into existence because of segregation, the suggestion was incredibly tone deaf and offensive.
Many are accusing officials at the school of politicizing the ceremony, drawing attention away from the students’ achievements and onto a political figure. Officials at the school defended their decision by saying that students should be tolerant of all viewpoints – even those of an Education Secretary who fundamentally misunderstands education and HBCUs.
— Mariana_Atencio (@marianaatencio) May 10, 2017