On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, giving the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach, Florida, was met with thunderous boos.
It wasn’t just the students who booed; parents also joined in the nasty response to DeVos. Some blacks have taken offense to DeVos’ statement that historically black colleges and universities were “the original pioneers of school choice.”
Roughly two minutes into DeVos’ speech, the boos got so loud that Edison Jackson, the college’s president, threatened to cancel the commencement ceremony and mail students their diplomas, saying, “Choose which way you want to go.”
Over a dozen graduates rudely turned around and showed their backs to DeVos as she spoke; some people in the crowd were escorted from the room with their fists raised in the black power symbol. When DeVos spoke about the “different life experiences” of those in the crowd, some shouted, “Hell nah,” according to Buzzfeed.
When DeVos mentioned her plans to visit the gravesite of the school’s founder and namesake, Mary McLeod Bethune, the boos got louder.
A petition to remove DeVos from the list of commencement speakers garnered thousands of signatures. The Rev. Jeffrey Dove, an African Methodist Episcopal Church pastor who met with B-CU’s president, Edison Jackson, asking him to rescind the invitation to DeVos, said, “I don’t hate Betsy DeVos, but the fruit from the poison tree is poisonous. Donald Trump is a racist and a sexist, and my job as a preacher is to speak up against that. There’s no problem with a dialogue, but this is not a dialogue — it’s a monologue.”
Jackson wouldn’t budge, telling reporters on Wednesday, “God is on our side, and when he’s for you, what does it matter who’s against you?” He added that DeVos’s visit was a chance to “engage and educate” the secretary. He also revealed that 12 Bethune-Cookman students had met with DeVos to give her concrete policy suggestions.
Jackson concluded, “We are always about the business of making new friends. Her department controls 80% of the revenue that comes into our school. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?”
Pictures of DeVos’ trials and tribulations below: