Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed and repeatedly interrupted by students Wednesday during her commencement speech in Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The hostile reception for DeVos, who was one of President Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet choices, was mainly as a result of controversial statements she had made in the past regarding African-American colleges.
One of those came at the end of Black History Month this year, when she equated the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with her “school choice” policy.
“HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” DeVos said in a statement, Politico reported. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
DeVos’ statement eroded any goodwill from the African-American community Trump might have hoped for after signing an executive order beckoning the White House to take a more hands-on approach to higher education, stated a Politico report.
Robert Palmer, an education professor at Howard University, branded DeVos’ statement “a bit crazy,” while Austin Lane, the president of Texas Southern University, an HBCU in Houston, found her statement to be puzzling.
“HBCUs were created for African-Americans because they had no choice and were unable to attend schools due to segregation laws,” Lane said.
When social media users blasted DeVos’ original statement, a spokesperson for the Education Department tried to calm the situation down by claiming her statement was taken out of context. In an effort to clarify her statement, DeVos made another comment, which caused even more controversy.
“Your history was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War,” DeVos said addressing the school leaders in a speech.
DeVos attracted further criticism when she tried to circumvent one major demand of the local schools – increased funding for the public school system.
In keeping with DeVos and the president’s common agenda of diverting maximum funds to the private schools, a request of $25 billion in infrastructural funding for improving college campuses was rejected by the White House, according to a Politico report.
“Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential,” DeVos said in a statement justifying her decision.
Consequently, the negative publicity…