Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was repeatedly shouted down and interrupted by protesting graduates as she delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida, on Wednesday.
Just listen to this chorus of boos:
Students had said they were planning to protest DeVos’ appearance after it was announced that the secretary, an outspoken school privatization advocate, was going to be their commencement speaker. Students and alumni pointed to DeVos’ remarks in February that historically black colleges and universities were “real pioneers” on “school choice,” when in fact these institutions were borne out of other schools barring black students from attending.
As Adam Harris, a reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education, reported on Twitter, the crowd of around 300 graduating seniors did not take kindly to DeVos’ appearance at the Daytona Beach school, where she also received an honorary degree.
The disruptions, which could clearly be heard on the university’s live stream of the ceremony, reportedly reached a point where university President Edison Jackson interrupted DeVos to threaten to mail graduates their degrees if they wouldn’t pipe down.
But the students weren’t deterred, turning their backs on DeVos and raising fists in the air.
DeVos delivered her speech with almost no acknowledgement of mood in the room. But after Jackson reclaimed the mic, his remarks while introducing a singing performance felt more than a little pointed.
“The truth of the matter is, as we have said repeatedly, be careful of the people you let in your place,” he said, to boos and jeers from the crowd.