Despite protests, DeVos delivering Bethune-Cookman address

Cheryl Sanders
May 14, 2017

Education Secretary and billionaire school-privatization huckster Betsy DeVos, who is going to be very bad for the state of American education, was invited to speak a graduation ceremony today.

But perhaps they were asking themselves if they failed in their goal of educating the next generation over the last four years or succeeded?

There was no chance that was going to happen in 2017. Though the protest at the graduation may be the first most of us have heard about this event, it turns out that students and alumni at Bethune University had been trying to keep DeVos away from graduates' big day for quite some time.

Both students and alumni had expressed discontent with the invitation extended to DeVos for a variety of reasons, mainly including her mischaracterization of HBCUs as "pioneers of school choice", for she later apologized. Some members of the crowd also walked out during her speech with their fists up in the air, according to reporters on the ground.

The HBCUs, protesters said, were "born not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism". "We need everyone to be a part of this continuation of our institution".

On Twitter, images and videos of defiant graduating students inspired others to echo similar disapproval of DeVos with tweets carrying the hashtag #BacksToBetsy.

"Black students did not "choose" HBCUs over the all-white colleges", Rep John Conyers said, after the statement. Thousands signed petitions advocating for a new commencement speaker, while others called for Jackson's resignation.

On Wednesday, DeVos was given an honorary doctorate from Bethune-Cookman but her speech was interrupted by booing on a number of occasions.

DeVos has continued since then to cite historically black colleges as examples of alternative options for quality education, her stated goal for promoting the diversion of tax money from public schools to private companies and charters.

"The natural instinct is to join in the chorus of conflict, to make your voice louder, your point bigger and your position stronger", DeVos said. "The legacy of Dr. Bethune is that she was not constrained by political ideology, but worked across all parties to support B-CU", university president Edison O. Jackson said, as reported by the Huffington Post. Is there more DeVos can do to win the support of HBCUs?

"I truly believe that meaningful progress for our schools requires relationships", says President Jackson in a statement published on Bethune-Cookman's website.

Other reports by iNewsToday