The NAACP Florida State Conference president on Monday called for the resignation of two Bethune-Cookman University officials, a week after the school invited U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to serve as its keynote commencement speaker.
Florida NAACP president Adora Nweze called on president Edison Jackson and board chairman Joe Petrock to resign immediately.
The decision to invite DeVos to speak at the school last Tuesday caused public outcry because of comments that she previously made calling historically black colleges and universities “real pioneers” of school choice.
DeVos later backtracked, saying that the schools weren’t established to give black students more choices, but because black students were forbidden from attending white schools because of racial segregation.
“Multiple allegations have surfaced, including faculty intimidation demanding their silence or (risking) termination,” Nweze said. “And (there were accusations of) threats to students by potentially withholding earned degrees and fines for freedom of expression.”
Several attorneys have already agreed to represent faculty and students who peacefully protested DeVos’ speech and who might face retaliation from the university, Nweze said.
“Our partners have reviewed the university student code of conduct, and it does not contain any prohibition on peaceful protests and freedom of expression,” Nweze said. “The NAACP Volusia County Daytona Beach Branch and several attorneys will be on the ground monitoring this situation.”
Nweze said the organization opposes DeVos’ visit and believes that she’s unworthy of receiving an honorary degree from B-CU.
“The university leadership has drastically fumbled and should resign,” Nweze said.
DeVos will speak Wednesday at the university.
Bethune Cookman has not replied to requests for comments.