DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Students, alumni, and friends of Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) were expected to hand deliver a petition with over 50,000 signatures to the school's administrators on Tuesday, urging them to remove Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as the school's commencement speaker.
Students who are protesting the DeVos speech say they do not believe that she understands "the importance, contribution, and significance of a historically black college," adding it would be "an insult to the graduating class, students, alumni, family, friends, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's legacy" if she speaks there. They are urging the school to rescind their invitation.
Read a section of the petition below:
"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…
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. We, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, do not want Betsy DeVos to have a seat at our table. Please rescind her invitation to speak at the graduation ceremony…"
Over 50,000 petitions were collected through Change.org, Color of Change, and the Florida Education Association.
Students and alumni have been supported in their effort by the American Federation of Teachers, Color of Change, Dream Defenders, Florida Education Association, and the Florida NAACP.
If Secretary DeVos is not removed as the commencement speaker, hundreds are expected to protest commencement on Wednesday.