DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Latest on the appearance of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University (all times local):
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was nearly drowned out by boos, catcalls and scattered applause as she delivered the commencement speech at historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.
Many of the graduating students turned their back on DeVos, who has offended many African-Americans by invoking the colleges created in response to racist laws as a great example of school choice.
DeVos said the Trump administration is fully committed to the students’ success.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos arrived Wednesday to deliver the commencement address at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, despite protests by students and alumni.
DeVos, a billionaire without education experience, offended many African-Americans in February when she said historically black colleges are the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” After a storm of criticism, she acknowledged that these colleges were “born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism.”
DeVos has continued since then to cite historically black colleges as alternative options for quality education, her stated goal for promoting the use of tax money for private schools.
Some alumni and the local NAACP leader called for the BCU President Edison Jackson to rescind the invitation as insensitive and misguided. Students presented Jackson with signed petitions Tuesday demanding she not be allowed to speak. Dozens of activists lined a sidewalk early Wednesday; their signs included “DeVos is not worthy.”
Jackson, however, has argued that inviting DeVos is an important gesture for finding common ground.
“We are all about the business of making new friends,” Jackson said at a pre-commencement news conference. “If you don’t have friends, it’s very difficult to raise money.”