Just days after the students at Bethune Cookman University in Florida booed and turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy Devos at the graduation, another University had a petition going around to oppose the commencement speech. Students at Texas Southern University (Houston, Texas) started a petition to stop Texas Senator John Cornyn from doing the commencement speech at the graduation. Unlike Bethune Cookman, TSU listened to their students and canceled.
Cornyn’s spokesman said, “Sen. Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the university in the future.”
Students at Texas Southern University started a petition asking that the senator be withdrawn as a commencement speaker, citing the positions he has taken. These included his confirmation votes in favor of DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his opposition to funding for cities that protect immigrants and his support for photo IDs for voting. The petition also cited Cornyn’s low rating by the NAACP.
“Having a politician such as him speak at our institution is an insult to the students, to TSU, and to all (historically black colleges and universities),” said the petition (change.org site). “This is our graduation. We have the right to decide if we want to refuse to sit and listen to the words of a politician who chooses to use his political power in ways that continually harm marginalized and oppressed people.”
Per the University’s statement
“Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come. We asked Sen. Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families. We, along with Sen. Cornyn, agree that the primary focus of commencement should be a celebration of academic achievement.”