Hundreds of graduating seniors of a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla., booed and turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as she stood up to deliver a commencement speech today.
"Let’s choose to hear each other out," DeVos said, straining to be heard above the crowd at Bethune-Cookman University. "We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other’s experience."
But most of the graduating seniors stood and turned their backs as the crowd applauded. University President, Edison O. Jackson took the podium and tried to quiet the crowd, threatening to end the graduation. "Your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go."
It appeared as if faculty members at the podium with DeVos stood in support of her and many — although not all of the students — eventually took their seats.
During the speech, DeVos emphasized the Trump administration’s support for historically black colleges and universities, citing its efforts to restore year-round Pell Grants as one example.
“I am at the table fighting on your behalf, and on behalf of all students across this great nation,” she said.
The university’s invitation asking DeVos to speak at the graduation has snowballed into a major controversy for the administration as the NAACP in Florida called on Jackson to resign and teachers’ unions have helped gather petition signatures in opposition.