Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was loudly booed by Bethune-Cookman University graduates on Wednesday while delivering a commencement address that many students and grads never agreed to.
Some students turned their backs on DeVos during her opening remarks.
“While we will undoubtedly disagree at times I hope we can do so respectfully,” she said, barely heard over the booing. “Let’s choose to hear one another out. I want to reaffirm this administration’s commitment to and support for (historically black colleges and universities) and the students they serve.”
The administration invited DeVos to speak against the wishes of practically the entire student body, not to mention alumni. The announcement of her selection was made just one week ago, leaving students shocked and scrambling to launch a petition to remove her as speaker, but it was unsuccessful.
Even more boos broke out during the commencement when DeVos was awarded an honorary doctorate, and again when she said she would visit the home of school founder Mary McLeod Bethune to pay her respects.
The booing was so overwhelming that at one point, school President Edison Jackson interrupted DeVos’ to tell the grads: “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”
Many of the standing graduates took their seats, but a few remained standing, prompting Jackson to implore them again to sit down.
The commencement program said DeVos was slated to speak an hour or more, but she wrapped after about 20 minutes, according to CNN.
Before her address, several students told CNN that based on her infamous comment that founders of HBCUs were “real pioneers” of school choice (and failing to understand that black colleges were founded because racial segregation left African Americans with zero choice in colleges and universities) – DeVos had no business delivering their commencement address.
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