Students booed and turned their backs on the speaker

By Lisa Marie Segarra
May 10, 2017

After a series of gaffes regarding historically black colleges and universities from President Donald Trump’s administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was met with a chorus of boos as she delivered Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement address.

Members of the graduating class of the historically black school turned their backs on DeVos, who was also awarded an honorary degree, as she spoke. A protest of Devos, who was invited by Bethune President Edison Jackson, has been in the works since the school announced that she would speak. The NAACP of Florida also asked the president and board chairman of the Daytona Beach university to step down over the decision.

In a statement, Jackson said, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.”

The response to DeVos comes after Trump suggested funding for historically black colleges might be unconstitutional, which he later took back saying his support for them is “unwavering.” In February, DeVos, a school voucher advocate, was criticized after saying that the schools were “pioneers” of “school choice” — the schools were created to educate black students barred from other learning institutions.

Trump also met with heads of historically black schools in February and named Omarosa Manigault as an ambassador to black communities.

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