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Published On: Tue, May 16th, 2017

Bethune Cookman graduates protest Betsy DeVos, Univeristy Prez Edison Jackson threatens to stop ceremony

Graduating seniors at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida turned their backs in protest of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the start of her commencement speech on Wednesday at the historically black institution.

Dr. Evelyn Bethune, the granddaughter of Bethune-Cookman University founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, talked exclusively with Roland Martin about the protest and that she was initially shocked after learning about the university’s decision to bring in DeVos as the speaker.

Betsy DeVos

“First of all, I thought I had stepped into bizarro world and that somebody was telling me a joke. And then I was highly insulted and my family was insulted. My grandson was graduating, so we were really really upset”

Adding that she knows her late grandmother was “standing up straight” over the decision.

Boos and jeers could be heard as DeVos, who drew ire in February when she said historically black colleges were “pioneers” of educational choice, was introduced. Faculty and school administrators on stage stood and applauded.

The university’s president, Edison Jackson, interrupted her speech with a warning to students. “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you,” he said. “Choose which way you want to go.”

Live video of the ceremony in Daytona Beach showed many graduates facing away from DeVos, though it was not clear how many of the approximately 300 seniors participated in the silent protest.

“One of the hallmarks of higher education and of democracy is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree,” DeVos told the graduates.

The Federalist writer Justin McClinton contradicted the group think that this was such a great idea: “It does not matter what your opinion is of Betsy DeVos, booing her during a speech is disrespectful. There has always been a trickle-down from predominantly white colleges to historically black colleges. The worse of these has been a blatant contempt for people who represent contrasting viewpoints.”

He continued: “Of course no one will ever actually know where other people stand on any given issue if only a select few are allowed to voice their perspectives. Being intellectually lazy has become the standard, and too many people are comfortable allowing their favorite news filters to determine what they believe.”

In a statement on Sunday, President Donald Trump said DeVos chose Bethune-Cookman for her first commencement address as education secretary to show the Republican administration’s dedication to the mission of historically black colleges and universities.

Sean P. Jackson, chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida, said DeVos had long been a champion of providing strong education opportunities for minority students.

“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.

About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professional in 2008 on sites like Examiner and blogs: Desk of Brian, Crazed Fanboy. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) will be a licensed Assembly of God Pastor by the Spring of 2017. "Why do we do this?" I was asked and the answer is simple. "I just want the truth. I want a source of information that tells me what's going and clearly attempts to separate opinion from fact. Set aside left and right, old and young, just point to the world and say, 'Look!'" To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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