U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been confirmed to deliver the Spring 2017 commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University.
The private historically Black college located in Daytona Beach announced DeVos as their keynote speaker on Monday and shortly after, an online petition was initiated to stop her from speaking.
According to The Washington Post, the University released a press release that said: “Much like Dr. Bethune, Founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience. Her mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy of Dr. Bethune.”
“Dr. Bethune’s love for students started with five little girls and grew to over 250 students during her time as university president,” said Edison Jackson, Bethune-Cookman’s President in the release.
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Shortly after the announcement, many people shared their distaste of the University’s selection by posting on Twitter with the hashtag, #StopDevosBCU.
An online petition, which has garnered more than 3,000 signatures by Monday, was created to “stop Betsy DeVos from delivering the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University.”
“We know the name. We know the face. We know the legacy. The time is now for us to protect a woman who had a dream, five little girls, and $1.50,” the change.org petition read about the comparison between DeVos and the University founder, Mary McLeod Bethune.
Dominik Whitehead, who started the campaign, states that “we, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, understand the importance of engagement and open communication HBCUs must have with all levels of government.”
Upon being confirmed as the U.S. Secretary of Education early February, DeVos has become a controversial figure within the Trump administration. The billionaire Michigan fundraiser has no previous educational experience.
In addition, her confirmation has come under question as she has personally donated nearly $2.5 million dollars to the Republican Party and over the years, her family has contributed more than $950,000.
Back in February, DeVos was criticized on social media, for describing historically Black colleges and universities as “pioneers when it comes to school choice.” She later tried to clarify her comments on Twitter.
“Betsy DeVos doesn’t understand that HBCUs were created because African-Americans were excluded from mainstream institutions. Secretary DeVos has no understanding of the importance, contributions, and significance of HBCUs,” Whitehead argues in the petition.
“Bethune-Cookman University doesn’t need a photo op from the Trump Administration,” the petition read.