The atmosphere at Bethune-Cookman University had been tense since its president, Edison Jackson, announced that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would deliver the 2017 commencement address.
Want the latest news and gossip at your fingertips? Text QC to 71007 to join our text club!
Ahead of DeVos’ speech, thousands of students, alumni and supporters of the Dayton, Florida HBCU signed petitions and presented them to Jackson’s office that urged the university’s administration to rescind its invitation to the controversial education secretary.
“You don’t know her. You don’t know her story,” responded Jackson, whom the Florida NAACP wants to resign over allegations that university officials are using threats to silence students and faculty who protest DeVos’ speech.
Omarosa Manigault and @betsydevosED BOOED and rightfully so at Bethune- Cookman graduation
Things heated up again after the historically Black university presented DeVos with an honorary doctorate. The outlet said the auditorium “erupted with shouts” when she began to speak, forcing DeVos to raise her voice. About half of the nearly 400 graduates turned their backs on her.
The president stepped to the microphone to scold the students: “Choose which way you want to go.” He said diplomas would be mailed to students who did not cooperate.
Jackson heaped praise on DeVos when he announced that she would deliver the keynote speech. He compared her to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, the African-American educator and civil rights advocate who founded the university in 1904.
Two months earlier, DeVos, an unwavering school choice advocate, sparked outrage when she called HBCUs “pioneers of school choice.” She was apparently ignorant to the historic fact the Jim Crow laws barred African-Americans from attending traditionally White institutions.
Thank you for subscribing! Please be sure to open and click your first newsletter so we can confirm your subscription.
The Florida NAACP called the invitation a “slap in the face to minorities, women and all communities of color,” in a statement, adding that she has “a horrible public education record” that harms the Black community.