Bethune-Cookman University in Florida has been swirling in controversy over the past week. After the initial announcement that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would be delivering the commencement address, there was vocal disapproval from both current and former students. The tension came to a head during the actual ceremony when graduates turned their back to DeVos and students booed her as soon as she began to speak.
Despite all of this, Bethune-Cookman officials have maintained their position to support DeVos’ appearance. As a result, the Florida NAACP has called for President Eddie Jackson to resign from his post, according to a press release.
“The NAACP Florida State Conference is calling on Bethune Cookman University President Dr. Edison Jackson and Board Chairman Dr. Joe Petrock to resign effective immediately. Since our initial public outcry last week, multiple allegations have surfaced including faculty intimidation demanding their silence or risk termination and threats to students by potentially withholding earned degrees and fines for freedom of expression. If these allegations are proven, this contrasts the public statements of university administration who opposes suppressing voices by welcoming U.S. Education Secretary DeVos but lends indirect support to these actions against faculty and students,” read the statement that was released before DeVos spoke.
“We still believe Secretary DeVos should not speak at commencement and that she has no record supporting an honorary degree by Bethune-Cookman University. With the recent comments of President Trump suggesting federal funding for HBCU’s is unconstitutional; this validates our view of a horrible decision by the university inviting Secretary DeVos, who still has not pledged to drastically increase funding for all historically black colleges and universities. The university leadership has drastically fumbled and should resign” said Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the National Board of Directors.
If you’re wondering who Jackson is, he’s the man who threatened to cancel the entire commencement ceremony when students booed DeVos. Depending on how this situation plays out, he may look back on these last couple of weeks with a hint of regret.