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Protest at DeVos Commencement Address

December 19, 2017

In a commencement address to University of Baltimore graduates Monday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised the institution for shaping its programs to what students want and need and "not the other way around." But her speech was greeted with protests by graduates themselves, with many standing and turning their backs during the address.

When DeVos was announced as commencement speaker in September, many students criticized the pick by President Kurt Schmoke. And hundreds signed a petition saying they did not want her appearing at the campus.

The Baltimore Sun reported that dozens of students rose in protest throughout the speech Monday, one with a graduation cap reading "#Not my commencement speaker." One faculty member also joined the protests from the stage, the newspaper reported.

The protesters, however, didn't rise to the level of disruption in an earlier commencement address by the secretary. In May, graduating students at Bethune-Cookman booed and jeered a commencement speech from DeVos, at times drowning out her remarks.

On Monday, she renewed a recent theme of promoting postsecondary alternatives to four-year degrees.

"We must stop suggesting there is only one conventional path to success," she told graduates. "In fact, there are many avenues to gain what individual students need or want: industry-recognized certificates, stackable credits, credentials and licensures, badges, microdegrees, apprenticeships, two-year degrees, four-year degrees, advanced degrees. All of these are valid pursuits. Each should be embraced as such."

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Andrew Kreighbaum

Andrew Kreighbaum joins Inside Higher Ed as our federal policy reporter. Andrew comes to us from The Investigative Reporting Workshop. He received his master's in data journalism at the University of Missouri, and has interned at USA Today and a national journalism institute in Columbia, MO. Before getting his master's, Andrew spent three years covering government and education at local papers in El Paso, McAllen and Laredo, Texas. He graduated in 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in history and was news editor at The Daily Texan.

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