UPDATE: The NAACP Florida State Conference is now calling for the resignation of Bethune-Cookman President Dr. Edison Jackson and Board Chairman Dr. Joe Petrock following the decision to invite Betsy DeVos to speak at its commencement ceremony.
“The NAACP Florida State Conference is calling on Bethune-Cookman University President Dr. Edison Jackson and Board Chairman Dr. Joe Petrock to resign effective immediately. Since our initial public outcry last week, multiple allegations have surfaced including faculty intimidation demanding their silence or risk termination and threats to students by potentially withholding earned degrees and fines for freedom of expression. If these allegations are proven, this contrasts the public statements of university administration who opposes suppressing voices by welcoming U.S. Education Secretary DeVos but lends indirect support to these actions against faculty and students,” the chapter said in a statement.
Read the original story below.
An impromptu resistance occurred against Betsy DeVos from Bethune-Cookman University graduates on Wednesday.
— Tommy X-TrumpIsARacist-opher (@tommyxtopher) May 10, 2017
As DeVos started her commencement speech the graduates booed and protested, with some of them even turning their backs on the United States secretary of education. The graduates also booed in regards to a statement DeVos made during her speech, in which she said she would be visiting the grave site of Mary McLeod Bethune later in the day to pay her respects. Ultimately, school President Edison O. Jackson attempted to quiet down the crowd by telling them”If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”
Graduating students turn their back on Betsy Devos when she started her commencement speech, Jackson had to intervene. pic.twitter.com/zwe82gjHgA
— Saul Saenz (@saulsaenznews13) May 10, 2017
The protests gradually subsided with DeVos finishing her speech and requesting a call for understanding from the graduating students.
The protest is a result of remarks DeVos said two months back when she referred to Historically Black Colleges and Universities as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”
“They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater equality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish,” DeVos said.
People took to social media to address the statement, with many wondering if DeVos was aware of Jim Crow laws, the laws that enforced segregation in the United States and resulted in HBCUs having to be created in the first place.
In the week and a half since it was announced that DeVos would be speaking at the HBCU, everything from petitions protesting DeVos’ appearance to calls for the resignation of the school’s president was made.