DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Leaders at Daytona Beach-based Bethune-Cookman College announced US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will serve as spring commencement speaker next week.
In a press release the school stated that "...Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience." The college also cited several of DeVos’s local philanthropy work in the Central Florida area.
DeVos will receive an honorary degree from the college as part of the speech.
The choice was quickly met by controversy though. By Monday evening an online, alumni lead petition to remove DeVos from the speaker position had reached more than 3500 signatures. Signers citing her lack of educational experience and controversial past remarks about historically black colleges being “real pioneers” in school choice.
Bethune-Cookman’s position as a historically black college also had the NAACP weighing in Monday; asking DeVos to decline the invitation. In a press release the group said DeVos speaking would be a “slap in the face to minorities, women, and all communities of color.”
The college’s president stood by the choice in a video posted to Twitter Monday night, saying DeVos was in a position to have a positive impact on Bethune-Cookman and other schools like it.
"I would like to reassure our supporters that are looking to build a bridge for a mutually beneficial relationship with secretary Devos,” he said.