U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was greeted by rounds of boos on Wednesday as students turned their backs to her during a graduation ceremony where she was the keynote speaker.
DeVos was selected to speak at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, a historically black university, despite strong opposition by many students and community members to her presence.
“I am honored to become a Wildcat,” DeVos began her speech, after receiving an honorary doctorate, raising her voice as a chorus of boos attempted to drown her out. Students also shouted in opposition when Jackson acknowledged White House communications official Omarosa Manigault, who was sitting in the audience.
“You don’t know her, and nor do you know her story,” Jackson admonished the crowd, sparking more boos.
DeVos’ speech ignited immediate controversy when it was announced earlier this month, and students criticized the school for selecting her after she downplayed the role of racism in the creation of historically black colleges and universities.
Protesters on Tuesday delivered petitions to the school’s leaders, calling on them to cancel DeVos’ speech due to her ignorance of HBCUs and lack of support for student loan borrowers. Organizers said they had collected 50,000 signatures.