HBCUs already have a very complicated relationship with the Trump administration. And it’s only getting worse. 

First, the leaders from over a dozen different HBCUs agreed to meet at the White House but ended up being nothing more than photo op props for the president. Next, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made the grave mistake of implying that HBCU’s were created to give black students a better option for education when the reality is they were then the only option. [DeVos is known for being very pro-choice, but only when it comes to schools.]

However, the latest news about the Trump administration reaching out to HBCUS may be even more of a head scratcher. Betsy DeVos has been listed as the keynote speaker at the commencement of Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, according to The Washington Post.

“Much like Dr. Bethune, Founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Secretary DeVos deems the importance of opportunity and hope for students to receive an exceptional education experience,” the university said in a statement. “Her mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy of Dr. Bethune.”

As one would expect, there was a mixed reaction to the news. An online petition was started by alumni of the university urging school officials to choose someone else to deliver the speech. As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 3,400 signatures.

We, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, understand the importance of engagement and open communication HBCUs must have with all levels of government; therefore instead of inviting Secretary DeVos to graduation, let’s welcome her to the table and have meaningful dialogue about stronger policies, the White House HBCU Initiative, and the importance and contributions of HBCUs.

Bethune-Cookman University doesn’t need a photo op from the Trump Administration, we need action done by this administration for all HBCUs.

Please rescind her invitation to speak at the graduation ceremony.

Some speculate that the public embracing of the Trump administration is a result of President Obama not doing enough for HBCU’s. However, there’s nothing of substance to show that President Trump will do any better. And, if he does, it’ll only be to win pity points from Black voters by trying to show them he’s somehow better for them than the first Black president.