Bethune-Cookman Takes A Stand


It’s graduation season for many colleges around America, and prominent guest speakers attend to deliver addresses to various colleges. Bethune-Cookman, a historically black college in Florida, received national attention when the graduating students booed and turned their backs to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during her commencement address. The graduating class came into the auditorium smiling and thinking about the start of their careers, but that attitude took a sharp turn as Betsy DeVos gave empty remarks about historically black schools. For a little over a week, students and alumni have protested DeVos’ scheduled appearance to deliver the commencement speech, due to her lack of knowledge about HBCUs.

Back in February, DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education by Pres. Trump and received backlash from people calling her “unqualified.” DeVos is a billionaire Republican fundraiser who helped fund-raise Trump’s campaign. DeVos is a charter school advocate and also the chairwoman of the American Federations for Children, a group that pushes for the use of school vouchers and tax programs. Many people’s opposition of DeVos comes from her lack of experience and knowledge of the public school system. Her anti-public school and FAFSA views are insensitive to the families who literally cannot afford to pay yearly tuition to send their children to school. These exact views are why the graduating class of Bethune-Cookman University did that spontaneous protest. “If I were a Bethune-Cookman graduate, I would be insulted. Everyone knows this lady isn’t qualified for her position and she sure isn’t sympathetic and relatable to these students. To have a woman who wants to take away public schools, that same school system that got me where I am, I would be frustrated. I think what the students did was a powerful thing. What they did was send a message,” said Natalie Anthony (12). Many of the students grew up in unfortunate situations and DeVos, who has been privileged all her life, speaks to students that she cannot relate too. It’s an insult to their hard work and struggles. As the students started getting louder, the school’s president, Edison Jackson, threatened to dismiss the students and have their diplomas mailed home to them. “To me I can see why some people were upset and thought the students disrespectful. But another side of me understands their reaction,” said Deonna Young (12’). The students of Bethune-Cookman wanted someone who relates to them to give their commencement speech. When someone gives up a lot to achieve their goals, that someone wants to be thanked by a figure who is appreciated and respected. Betsy DeVos was not that person to the Bethune-Cookman graduates.