Bethune-Cookman Graduates Turn Their Backs on Betsy DeVos

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"If you don't have friends, it's very hard to raise money".

Twitter users flooded timelines yesterday (May 10) with praise for the many new graduates of Bethune-Cookman University who reacted to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' commencement speech with boos and turned backs.

"Right now is not the time for Secretary DeVos to speak at any historically black college", said Dominik Whitehead, a Bethune-Cookman alumnus who led one of the petition drives.

The university's president, Edison Jackson, interrupted her speech with a warning to students.

"Let's choose to hear one another out", DeVos said, reading her prepared text in a measured tone despite continuing waves of boos, catcalls and only scattered applause.

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.

As she opened her remarks, some students stood and turned their backs to her.

"Mixed feelings, but I'm looking at the bigger picture that I'm graduating and I'm going on to get my masters".


Ahead of the speech, students, alumni and political activists sought to have DeVos' invitation rescinded, saying they were offended by her earlier comment.

"This is a good day for us".

That message did not convince many students and community members, who The Chronicle of Higher Education reports gathered outside the commencement venue, protesting the Trump-appointed secretary of education with signs baring messages like "No to DeVos".

Historically black colleges were founded prior to 1964 when segregation prevented blacks from attending most colleges and universities in the country.

"The secretary says we should allow charter schools to come in and educate children if they are doing a better job than the public schools", Jackson said on Tuesday.

The booing became an uproar again mid-speech, when DeVos said she would be visiting the grave of the school's founder.

Tyler Durrant, a graduating senior, said that the university should not have sent a graduating class out that way.

"I have respect for all those who attended, including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me", she said.

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