HOUSTON, Texas — A historically black university in Houston replaced Texas Senator John Cornyn as its graduation speaker. The announcement came just two days after students at another historically black university booed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a commencement speech.
Houston’s Texas Southern University (TSU) told media outlets on Friday that the senior senator from Texas would no longer be speaking at the university’s ceremony on Saturday.
Breitbart reported on May 10 that students at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, jeered, booed and turned their backs on Education Secretary DeVos during her commencement speech. The heckling continued during her speech, and the university president eventually interrupted the speech saying, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you!”
Marcus Davis, radio host of Magic 102.1’s Sunday Morning Live expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Senator Cornyn for agreeing to withdraw from the speech. His comments came during an appearance on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point” Thursday night.
“He did so, and this is why I applaud him and thank him,” Davis began, and he then expressed the senator’s comments to the TSU Alumni Association during a meeting Davis attended, “he did so because this moment is about these students and ‘I don’t want it to be about anything else.'”
Davis said Cornyn told them he wanted this graduation to be about their hard work and accomplishments. Davis, a member of the TSU Alumni Association, invited the senator to return to the campus at a later date “for a discussion, a town hall meeting, a Q&A from a group of your constituency that feels underrepresented or misrepresented.” He said they could “have a talk about how we heal and move forward.”
A spokesman for the senator told Politico that Senator Cornyn “was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the university in the future.”
Students at TSU and presumably others (863 in all) signed a change.org petition that stated – “We are voicing our stark opposition to the decision of having Senator John Cornyn speak at the TSU Commencement on May 13.”
The stated reason in the petition – “The decision to host Mr. Cornyn, as a keynote speaker sends the message that the policies and views he has advocated and supported, including both discriminatory policies and politicians, are acceptable by the university and subsequently the student body.”
In particular, the petition cited Senator Cornyn’s votes “for” Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Devos as secretary of education, and yes on requiring a photo ID to vote in federal elections and a ban of same-sex marriage. It also mentioned that he voted “no” “on continuing federal funds for declared ‘sanctuary cities,’ and “on expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
The change.org petition asked those reading it: “Please recall that Coretta Scott King urged Congress to block the 1986 nomination of Jeff Sessions for federal judge, saying that allowing him to join the federal bench would ‘irreparably damage the work of my husband.’”
The petition also claimed that Cornyn “was rated 7% by the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance.”
“WE URGE ALL GRADUATION STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES TO EXPRESS THEIR DISCONTENT AND OPPOSITION TO OUR SELECTED KEYNOTE SPEAKER BY SIGNING THIS PETITION AND CONTACTING PRESIDENT LANE AND THE BOARD OF REGENTS,” the solicitation said in all capitals. “Having a politician such as him speak at our institution is an insult to the students, to TSU, and to all HBCUs,” it said.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the petition was started by a 26-year-old 2017 graduate in social work from San Antonio, Rebecca Trevino. The local publication reported she said she had no desire to censor Cornyn. “What I want people to realize is that this is our commencement.” “This is something we’ve worked hard for and we want someone who represents us and our values.” “This is an issue that’s important to me and my classmates,” she added. “We have a lot of pride in our school, and we’re very protective of who comes by.”
A Facebook post by the Houston HBCU read:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT REGARDING COMMENCEMENT:
Texas Southern University’s number one priority is student success and completion. We are proud to announce that 1,138 students have completed their academic journey and are now positioned to compete on a national level. Commencement exercises are special moments for our students, their families and the entire University. Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come. We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families. We, along with Senator Cornyn, agree that the primary focus of commencement should be a celebration of academic achievement.