University commencement ceremonies generally take place in the spring, but there’s a fall edition as well. And that means that it’s time for another round of protests by students who are easily traumatized by the presence of speakers who don’t sufficiently toe the liberal party line.
The latest example of this phenomenon comes to us from Maryland, specifically at the University of Baltimore. The President of the University is currently coming under fire from not only students, but politicians up to and including candidates to be the state’s next Governor. So what was his major sin this time? He invited Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to speak at commencement, so off with his head! (Baltimore Sun)
University of Baltimore president Kurt Schmoke defended his decision to invite U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to speak at the school’s fall commencement, even as dozens of students protested against the invitation Monday and hundreds more signed a petition demanding he change his mind.
Schmoke, a former mayor of Baltimore, said students should reserve judgment on the controversial member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet. Hosting DeVos, he said, is “in the best tradition of the university.”
“The university stands for freedom of speech,” Schmoke said. “My bottom line conclusion is the university stands for debate on controversial issues. I do feel that having the U.S. Secretary of Education on our campus is something that’s very important for the university, and in the long run, I believe that students will recognize that whether they agree with her position on issues or not.”
This wasn’t a muted protest. Students staged a walkout from classes, some sporting signage with the hastily arranged hashtag of #NeverBetsy. The rally they staged immediately attracted political opportunists. Among them was Ben Jealous, former President of the NAACP and now a candidate for Governor. And rather than calming the students down and arguing in favor of free speech and reasoned debate, Jealous immediately began goading them on, saying, “Betsy DeVos is quite simply the most anti-public education secretary of education our country has ever had.”
Protests against commencement speakers are nothing new, but this one stands out for really taking things to the next level. While it’s still a fight against the idea of Free Speech, you can almost understand how a sufficiently left wing student might not want to hear from conservative pundits and authors such as Ann Coulter. They have a tendency to break out the flamethrowers at times and are still essentially private citizens who are speaking for themselves, not as government policy.
But we’re talking about the Secretary of Education here. DeVos is a member of the Cabinet and theoretically in the line of presidential succession. (Okay, she’s number 15, but still…) When has it not been an honor for a school to have someone of such a prestigious position agree to address the class?
And while we’re at it, what exactly has DeVos done to make her such a terrible person? She’s had the poor taste to suggest that parents should have the widest range of options possible when shopping for an education for their children. She recently put forward the horribly offensive idea that that changes to Title IX under the Obama administration which deprived students accused of serious crimes due process under the law might need a second look. Oh, dear, what a monster!
This isn’t one of those cases where the University should agree to cancel the invitation. Frankly, I think DeVos should rescind her RSVP and tell them she’s no longer interested in addressing this ungrateful pack of snowflakes. I’m sure there are plenty of other institutions which would be grateful for a visit from a Cabinet member.