BALTIMORE — The Latest on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ speech at the University of Baltimore commencement (all times local):
Students graduating from the University of Baltimore protested the appearance of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at their commencement.
As the event got underway Monday, there was a smattering of light boos when DeVos was announced as a speaker. As she took the stage, there was a mix of booing and applause.
Then, about 10 minutes into her remarks, nearly 50 people stood up and silently faced the back of the theater. The group was mostly African-American, and included some of the approximately 375 graduating students and a handful of their relatives. One of the students silently raised a fist as he turned his back on DeVos.
About 50 protesters are gathered across the street from a Baltimore theater where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will deliver a commencement speech to graduates of a public university.
The demonstrators include University of Baltimore faculty, LGBT activists, and students. Some carried signs with slogans such as “democracy needs public schools.”
DeVos has spent decades promoting the use of vouchers and other methods to redirect public money into private schools.
Kerrin Smith is a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Baltimore. She says she was “shocked and disappointed” by the choice of DeVos as commencement speaker, citing what she describes as the Trump administration’s “strangling of public education.”
Debbie Kohl is an associate professor in the University of Baltimore’s college of arts and sciences. She was among about a dozen faculty members wearing academic robes while protesting DeVos outside the theater. She says many of her fellow professors believe DeVos “represents policies and standpoints that are antithetical to the job we do here for our students.”
Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to stop in Baltimore to deliver a commencement address at a public university.
In recent weeks, some University of Baltimore students have protested the choice of DeVos as their fall commencement speaker. They argue that DeVos shouldn’t be invited to speak on a public campus since they see her as hostile to public education and indifferent to civil rights.
University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke has sent a letter to the student body explaining why he believes DeVos is a good choice as speaker. Schmoke is a former mayor of Baltimore.
University spokesman Chris Hart says there are security plans in place. He says the university wants to “ensure that the day is enjoyable for our graduates and their families and friends.”