Students at the University of Baltimore turned their backs on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a commencement ceremony on Monday.
Students and family members turned their backs as Betsy DeVos delivered a commencement speech on Monday. The protests came after over 3,000 members of the University of Baltimore community signed a petition to have DeVos canned as the scheduled commencement speaker.
Betsy DeVos has been invited (and has now accepted) to deliver University of Baltimore’s Fall 2017 Commencement speech. This decision was not made in any way by the faculty, student government, or the student body as a whole. Invitations to speak were extended solely by the University President, Kurt Schmoke. The SGA was not even made aware of her involvement until 9/7/17. This is unacceptable. This is not what UB students want. The overwhelming majority of UB students and alumni, as well as the Baltimore community in general are appalled at this decision. UB is a place that supports social justice and equality, and students consistently fight for what is right in the Baltimore community.
The petition added that attendance at the ceremony served as an “implicit endorsement” of DeVos’ policies.
Further, it creates an implicit endorsement of policies that can and will have a lasting negative impact on the very graduates this ceremony is supposed to celebrate. Ms. DeVos seems to go against the very core of so many of UB’s values and makes our mission statement look to be a mockery. We can’t send consistent letters of support and inclusiveness to the student body and yet at the same time sell ourselves so short.
DeVos subtly condemned some of the protesters during her speech, arguing that many are quick to join in on the “chorus of conflict.” “The natural instinct is to join in the chorus of conflict, to raise your voice louder, to promote your profile and ostracize others,” she said. “Too many assume that those who are the loudest are leaders and those who stay quiet are followers. But we will not solve the significant and real problems our country faces if we cannot embrace this paradox of silence.”