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Protesters greet Education Secretary DeVos at U. Baltimore fall commencement

Protesters at the University of Baltimore’s fall graduation ceremony greeted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos* on Monday due to her support for changes to Title IX (like mandating basic due process rights for the accused), charter schools, and her general “connection to the Trump administration.”

The demonstrators were organized by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture and the Maryland chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). According to Baltimore Beat, numerous graduates and faculty joined them.

FORCE’s Saida Agostini said she was upset at the secretary’s focus on allegedly making it tougher for victims of sexual assault:

“So we’re really concerned about that as well as her other actions that continue to destabilize survivors, people of color, those who are differently-abled, queer folks,” she said. “When we talk about increasing the burden of proof for survivors, what we’re really talking about is who is worthy of belief in campuses and our communities.”

That’s a rather interesting take, to say the least. Making sure the accused get due process — as folks like Al Franken and Tavis Smiley are (re)discovering — has been a hallmark of American jurisprudence since the country’s founding.

From the article:

As parents and faculty began entering the Lyric for the ceremony, word got to those outside at the rally that some faculty sitting on the stage for the graduation wore large buttons which read, “Support and Defend Public Schools” and many students had written anti-DeVos and anti-Trump messages on the top of their caps. There was concern that UB would prevent faculty from wearing the buttons on stage, and leading up to the event some UB professors expressed concern to the Beat that joining the protest might result in retribution from the university. …

As DeVos began her speech, two women stood in the front row just feet away from DeVos with their backs facing her. One held up her graduation cap, which had “Not My Commencement Speaker” written on it. Soon, another joined the two and then slowly more students stood up with their back to DeVos staring straight ahead, some with their fists up. Slowly, it grew to about 40 University of Baltimore graduates turning their back on DeVos in protest, including the parents of some of the students. …

“Today was my undergraduate graduation,” [student Rachel] Edwards said. “I have been waiting for this moment for years. The reason why I did not attend graduation today is because I believe it devalues University of Baltimore’s mission to ensure students are protected. ‘Protected’ meaning down to the speakers we invite into safe spaces. The Trump administration, which includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, unleashed a handful of policies that undermine marginalized communities. I refused to go because I do not believe in giving platforms to anyone that represents an administration that is hellbent on destroying vulnerable communities.”

Another student, Emily Wenker, said Ms. DeVos “does not represent” her as a student, and as such she stood with her back to the secretary.

“I stood up because I earned this day, and it was disrespectful to us, as graduates, to be misrepresented,” Wenker said.

So it is now “disrespectful” to want legal protections for those accused of criminal activity, and to desire the best possible avenues for all children to get an education.

It seems the modern academy did its job quite well in Ms. Wenker’s case.

Read the full story.


h/t to The Washington Times

MORE: At Harvard, Betsy DeVos accused of being a ‘white supremacist’

MORE: Vast majority agree with Betsy DeVos on revising Title IX guidance

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.