A large number of graduates booed White House political aide Omarosa Manigault as she was being introduced, then gave the same courtesy to DeVos. In announcing DeVos as commencement speaker last week, the school compared her to its founder, civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune, saying that DeVos's "mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy of Dr. Bethune".
DeVos has to raise her voice in order to be heard over the crowd. But many attendees Wednesday had already made up their minds about DeVos, whose appearance was condemned by the Florida chapter of the NAACP "based on her disgusting public education record impacting blacks and minorities in Florida and around the country", as Politico reported.
DeVos, a wealthy philanthropist and politician, received sharp criticism earlier this year after meeting with leaders of historically Black institutions, then issuing a statement cheering the schools for being the "real pioneers of school choice".
School president Dr. Edison O. Jackson threatened to end the commencement ceremony at one point, suggesting he would mail students their degrees instead.
Jackson said degrees would be mailed to students if their behavior continued.
"It's important to understand people will disagree", Jackson said.
To anyone who knows US history in this context, the statement was shocking, given that HBCUs were started not because blacks wanted to be pioneers of school choice but because white schools wouldn't accept them.
Courageous students from Bethune-Cookman came for Betsy "What is a public school?"
"We will not solve the significant problems our country faces if we cannot bring ourselves to embrace a mindset of grace", says DeVos.
On Friday, President Donald Trump falsely claimed that HBCUs "allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender", in a statement attached to a spending bill.
- Jessica Bakeman (@jessicabakeman) May 10, 2017There is ABSOLUTELY no reason Betsy Devos should be invited to say anything at an HBCU.
Later that month, DeVos appeared to confuse school choice with school segregation.
"Sadly, this administration continues this terrible legacy of discrimination by questioning the constitutionality of financing HBCUs, stripping away funding aimed at combatting school segregation, and weakening protections for student loan borrowers".
Before the ceremony, Jackson asked reporters, "Can you imagine how many institutions would love to have the highest education officer in all the land be their commencement speaker?"