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UB graduates protest DeVos's commencement speech

Dominique Maria Bonessi

University of Baltimore graduates and their families greeted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with mixed emotions. DeVos was the keynote speaker at UB’s winter commencement this afternoon.

Students and faculty from UB and other local schools critical of DeVos’s policies--including her stance on private schools and sexual assault on college campuses--protested outside the Lyric Theater.

"Voucher, vouchers, hell no! Betsy DeVos has got to go!” shouted protestors.

Inside the theater, UB’s President Kurt Schmoke set the tone for the commencement ceremony by asking graduates to look up Pauli Murray, a Baltimore native, episcopal priest, and lawyer.

“When efforts were made by someone on campus to deny the right to speak by those whose views she opposed, Pauli strongly disagreed," said Schmoke in his opening remarks.

Murray went onto tell her colleagues and students that they must listen to those with whom they agreed and disagreed. DeVos echoed that same sentiment in her speech to the graduates.

“This moment gives rise to a new voice full of ideas," said DeVos in her speech. "And it becomes your inherent responsibility to be considerate and careful in the exchange of ideas.”

While DeVos spoke, graduates slowly stood up and turned their backs to her. By the end of the speech at least 100 graduates and their parents stood in silent protest. In closing her remarks, DeVos left the podium to the sound of applause and boos.

DeVos promptly left the theater before the end of the ceremony. She did not receive an honorary degree from the public university.