Betsy DeVos, the billionaire charter school lobbyist serving as Secretary of Education, has made few headlines since trampling on transgender student rights and saying guns were necessary in schools in order to stave off bear attacks. However, DeVos popped up today to give a commencement speech and was met with a chorus of boos from the opening moments of her remarks.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony at Bethune-Cookman University Wednesday, DeVos spoke with “grim-faced resolve” while being shouted at (“go home”) and booed by those in attendance. DeVos appears to have expected this treatment, opening her speech as follows:
“One of the hallmarks of higher education and of democracy is the ability to converse with people with whom we disagree,” DeVos told the crowd, her voice raised slightly to be heard above the boos. “We can focus on differences that divide us, or we can choose to listen and learn from each other’s experiences.”
About two minutes into her speech, many students turned their backs to DeVos.
In response, Bethune-Cookman President Edison Jackson threatened to turn the graduation ceremony around if the students did not stop booing and shouting. “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you,” he said. “Choose which way you want to go.”
Nevertheless, DeVos eventually finished her speech.
Earlier this year, DeVos said that historically black colleges and universities were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” a potentially questionable remark given that HBCUs were started as a response to legal segregation at most universities. President Trump has also implied that funding for HBCUs is unconstitutional and racist before backtracking and expressing his support. for them