• B-CU says it won't stifle students' free speech when Betsy DeVos speaks at graduation

    By: WFTV Web Staff


    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Students, staff and others gathered for a march Tuesday to protest Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos being invited to give a  commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University.

    The group marched from the New Mt. Zion Church to the campus’ White Hall, where they handed over more than 50,000 signed petitions to the administration, urging it to have DeVos removed as the speaker.



    The petition reads, in part, “Betsy DeVos doesn't understand that HBCUs were created in response to the exclusion of African Americans from mainstream institutions. Secretary DeVos has no understanding of the importance, contributions, and significance of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). Having DeVos speak at the commencement ceremony is an insult to the BCU graduating class, students, alumni, family, friends, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's legacy.”

    Read: Thousands sign petition to rescind invitation for Betsy DeVos to deliver commencement address

    The NAACP Florida State Conference president on Monday called for the resignation of two Bethune-Cookman University officials a week after the school invited DeVos to serve as its keynote commencement speaker.

    Bethune-Cookman University said it won't stifle students' free speech Wednesday when DeVos speaks at graduation. 


    Attorneys for the NAACP said students who spoke out against the choice to have her speak were being threatened and intimidated.

    The university said students who protest will not be punished, but the NAACP said it still stands by its demand for the president to resign over the allegations that students were threatened. 


    The school said it will uphold the existing policies and procedures to protect the integrity of the graduation ceremony and students who protest outside the Ocean Center will not be punished. 

    The backlash of the choice stems from controversial comments DeVos made calling historically black colleges and universities "real pioneers" of school choice.

    Read: Security for DeVos may cost up to $7.8M | Read: HBCUs wonder if their mission is understood

    DeVos later backtracked, saying that the schools weren't established to give black students more choices, but because black students were forbidden from attending white schools because of racial segregation.




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