DeVos booed delivering Bethune-Cookman address

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Many of the graduating students turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and boos nearly drowned out her commencement speech Wednesday at Bethune-Cookman University.

DeVos carried on with her keynote address to the historically black university, praising its founder Mary McLeod Bethune as someone who “refused to accept systemic and repulsive racism,” and had “the courage to change old ideas.”

“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 scattered applause.

“I am here to demonstrate in the most direct way possible that I and the administration are fully committed to your success and to the success of every student across this great country,” she said.

As the crowd kept trying to shout her down, university president Edison Jackson briefly took over the microphone to lecture the students before she continued.

“If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go,” Jackson warned.

DeVos, a Republican fundraiser without classroom experience, offended many African-Americans in February when she said historically black colleges are the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” After a storm of criticism, she acknowledged that these colleges were “born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism.”

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

Some alumni and African-American leaders had called the invitation insensitive and misguided. Students gathered petitions demanding she not be allowed to speak. Before the address, activists lined a sidewalk. One sign said “DeVos is not worthy.”

Jackson had been accused of selling out the school by inviting DeVos.

Before she left, he gave her a hug, then took back the podium to comment on the spectacle.

“As we have said repeatedly, be careful of the people you let in your place,” Jackson said, acknowledging the criticism. But he said “Bethune-Cookman University can’t do it alone. We need everyone to be a part of this continuation of our institution.”

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16 comments

  • steve

    It figures. A bunch of people incapable of looking into the real and total picture. College graduates incapable of thinking for themselves are found on every college campus these days, using rudeness to express their ignorance.

    • Adam

      In all fairness, the students have a valid beef. DeVos failed to look at the “real and total” picture when speaking about traditional black colleges as being a choice; it was an insult to hard fought battles for equality. Even after she corrected herself and issued a PC apology, she continued to call traditionally black schools places of choice, ignoring the absolute need, considering demographics, financial need, and social background. I agree that the students were rude. Their attitudes reflected the ignorance of DeVos.

      • steve

        Adam, any college is a choice. No student is prevented from attending whichever school they choose. Blacks can go to Brigham Young just like Whites can attend Grambling. There are just as many opportunities for black students today as white students, and the exclusivity in some activities and organizations precludes white involvement at all. Sorry, Adam, but you’re not seeing the “real and total” picture.

        • Adam

          Steve, I think you are trying to make an argument where no argument exists. Yes, it is now a choice. It wasn’t before. DeVos did not acknowledge that. The truth, if we’re being picky, is that it is still a low cost alternative to more expensive schools. For some, it is their only choice.

  • tracyd112

    I would Like to know why it is ok for the African Americans to have an all black School and even Portray it as that and it is excepted and allowed? If an All White School wanted to open it would be called all kinds of things and it would be called racist and discrimination? What I am saying is why is everything racial always so 1 sided?

    • Adam

      I’m glad that you asked. You may have noticed that it is portrayed as a “traditionally” all-black college. This is because, traditionally, whites wouldn’t touch this place with a ten foot pile. The college is accepted as a traditionally all-black college because it IS. It was established out of necessity because Blacks weren’t allowed to go to white schools… which was accepted and the norm. At the time, there were all white schools. Fortunately, Bethune-Cookman has always accepted white students, and I’m encouraged to say that 1.8% of the student body is white. You are free to apply!

    • Carmen Akua

      Many, many years ago, black people couldn’t get an elementary school education, much less a college education. Therefore, the creation of black colleges such as Bethune-Cookman, Tuskegee, Chaney, Spelman. These black colleges/universities would not exist if black people had those opportunities extended to them in the first place.

        • Adam

          I’m not your secretary, Steve, nor is this a paper that I’m going to submit for publishing that requires citations. Feel free to Google for the appropriate pages that contain college statistics and demographics. The percentages and actual dollars are readily available for nearly every institution.