“The NAACP Florida State Conference is calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to decline the commencement speaking invitation from Bethune Cookman University based on her horrible public education record impacting blacks and minorities in Florida and around the country.

In terms of higher education, Secretary DeVos, is responsible for monitoring agreements by states with her Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to disestablish dual public higher education systems. OCR has such an agreement with the State of Pennsylvania. Cheyney State, the oldest black university in the country, is nevertheless going down the tubes fast under the Secretary’s watch. Where is the passion that she has for further privatization of public schools when it comes to enforcement of race-based civil rights for public HBCUs like Cheyney State? Indeed, while she has spoken about her concern for protecting students from disability discrimination, where is her passion, or even concern, for fighting racial discrimination?

We believe the leadership of Bethune Cookman University should not bestow an honorary degree to Secretary DeVos based on her post-secondary education record. What makes the Bethune Cookman University approach unusual, is their plan to honor a person who has been on the job less than one hundred days and has no record of advancing educational equity for all students. The role of the U.S. Department of Education is to prohibit discrimination ensuring equal access to public education and the new Secretary of Education should pledge to drastically increase funding for all historically black colleges and universities. This has not happened to-date. If Secretary DeVos ultimately speaks at commencement and receives an honorary degree, this would be a slap in the face to minorities, women and all communities of color,” says Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the National Board of Directors.


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