In the midst of a tsunami of progressive authoritarianism washing over college campuses abetted by craven university administrators, one school president deserves applause
Edison O. Jackson, the president of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., invited Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to give the address at the school’s commencement ceremony last week. In announcing her invitation, Mr. Jackson compared Ms. DeVos’ “mission to empower parents and students” with the legacy of the historically black school’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune.
Before her speech, Ms. DeVos met with students for a question-and-answer session. One of the students said President Trump’s education chief seemed “genuinely interested in us” and that she wasn’t there “for publicity or for a couple likes on Twitter.”
The mood shifted when she took the podium, however.
As CNN reported, some students had petitioned school officials to cancel Ms. DeVos’ speech due to her views on school choice and now-recanted statements that founders of historically black colleges and universities were the “real pioneers” of school choice.
As she began to speak, some students stood and turned their backs to her. Hecklers tried to drown out her remarks. Ms. DeVos soldiered on, telling the crowd that “one of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.”
But when the disruptions continued, Mr. Jackson took control. “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you,” he said. “Choose which way you want to go.”
Most of the graduates proceeded to sit down, although at least one student was removed from the building. Ms. DeVos finally made it through her remarks, but news outlets reported that the boos ramped up again when Ms. DeVos received an honorary doctorate and then pledged to visit the home of the school’s founder to pay her respects.
Mr. Jackson remained a shining light amid the disrespect. In a statement after the speech, he defended Ms. DeVos’ invitation, arguing that hearing controversial ideas and differing beliefs can better equip students “for the demands of democratic citizenship.”
While too many cowardly university officials elsewhere are quick to cave to leftist pressure to silence uncomfortable viewpoints, Mr. Jackson not only rejected efforts to disinvite DeVos, but also stood up to a loud group of disruptive students when she was there. Let’s hope his example will shame leaders at other universities into more vigorously defending free-wheeling debate and inquiry rather than kowtowing to the progressive mob.