May 05, 2017 05:52 AM EDT
A petition has been filed by students to stop Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from delivering the commencement speech to graduating students at historically black college Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The petition has garnered over 5,000 signatures.
It was filed on Change.org and needs to reach 7,500 signatures. DeVos has been scheduled to speak at the university's 2017 graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 10, next week.
The petition described DeVos as one of the most controversial members of the administration fo President Donald Trump. It was also noted that, back in February, the Education Secretary claimed that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are the "real pioneers when it comes to school choice." This was met with criticisms since HBCUs were founded to provide educational opportunities to African-Americans who were denied them due to discrimination and racial segregation.
Last month, she also withdrew consumer protections for student loan borrowers. The petition noted that majority of full-time undergraduates who attended BCU receive need-based financial aid.
The petition, created by Bethune-Cookman University alumnus Dominik Whitehead, added that 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." It also described the Education Secretary's presence as just a photo opportunity from the Trump administration.
In the university's official website, it was announced that DeVos will be the keynote speaker for B-CU spring 2017 commencement ceremony. It was said that the Education Secretary is serving as an education policy advocate for students across the nation and that she has devoted her career in support of a quality educational experience for students.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida NAACP leader Adora Obi Nweze has said that the invitation was a "slap in the face." Evelyn Bethune, granddaughter of school founder Mary McLeod Bethune, added that a commencement ceremony is the wrong forum for the Education Secretary since it is a sacred event and a big deal for students and their families, who deserve the spotlight on them and not the controversial speaker.
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