On Thursday evening, a sitting U.S. secretary of Education faced silent protests at Harvard University, where attendees held up signs branding her a “white supremacist.”
More than a dozen protesters stood up in the crowd holding signs reading “Protect Survivors,” “Our Students Are Not 4 Sale,” “Educational Justice Is Racial Justice,” and of course “White Supremacist.”
“This is what white supremacy looks like!” students chanted as DeVos left the room following her speech.
By all accounts, DeVos handled the situation well. When the protesters stood up in the audience, obstructing the camera and audience members’ view with their signs, the education secretary continued with her speech, unabated. She even took questions from the audience in a respectful manner.
Students seemed most irate about the Department of Education’s recent rescinding of the Obama administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter advising colleges on how to abide by Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972. Among other things, this letter effectively promulgated a new interpretation of the law without a period of public comment, and twisted Title IX, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, into a federal mandate to create a campus sex bureaucracy.
The Obama directive led to a system of sexual assault tribunals separate from the U.S. criminal justice system (believed to be hopelessly biased against alleged victims of sexual assault). These tribunals denied due process to the accused, pushing a presumption of guilt that has led at least one campus tribunal to find guilty the very same man who was found to be innocent in a court of law.
In her remarks at Harvard, DeVos restated her complete dedication to fighting sexual assault and her dedication to justice for all parties. “One sexual assault is too many, but by the same token, one that is denied due process is too many,” the secretary declared. “So we need to be sure that policy is fair to all students.”
When the Department of Education rescinded the Obama policy, it also announced that a new policy will be drafted and opened for public comment.
Left-wing activists have vehemently protested any such revision, arguing that “every survivor” deserves to be listened to. Such rhetoric automatically assumes that anyone who accuses someone else of sexual assault is therefore a “survivor,” when in fact nothing yet has been proven. It is extremely important for real assaulters to be punished, but their guilt needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and even criminals deserve due process.
Nevertheless, protesters attacked DeVos for altering the policy. “I am very upset and angry about it,” Samantha White, a 19-year-old neurobiology major, told the Associated Press. “Sexual assault is such a huge problem on college campus already and if you are rolling this back, it makes survivors of sexual assault more vulnerable and it’s more difficult for them to seek justice when there aren’t these regulations.”
White appeared to struggle with the misconception that DeVos had already promulgated new regulations, rather than merely withdrawing stringent regulations the Obama administration had imposed.
As for charges of “white supremacy,” activists did not expound upon the argument, merely chanting it as a mantra. Perhaps they consider her a white supremacist because she works for President Trump?
The issue of school choice featured prominently, however. One student suggested that large corporations use school choice to make profits, asking DeVos how much she expects her net worth to increase because of her policies.
“I have written lots of checks to support giving parents and kids options to choose a school of their choice,” the secretary responded coolly. “The balance on my income has gone very much the other way and will continue to do so.” Indeed, DeVos and her family have given generously to the cause.
School choice is the effort to give students options other than local public schools, such as charter or private schools. Some liberals have attacked DeVos and school choice, implying that the secretary and her movement are racist, but these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. DeVos’ philanthropy has aided black and Hispanic communities by empowering their children to succeed, and multiple black leaders have praised DeVos for her work in the black community.
Even so, protesters at Harvard opposed the secretary’s efforts for school choice. “We need public schools not to lose our funding and be given to charter schools,” Tony DelaRosa, a 27-year-old student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who held the sign reading “Our Students Are Not 4 Sale,” told the AP. “Administering more charters anywhere, it’s going to take funding from somewhere.”
Before the speech, the Education Department announced $253 million in grants to expand charter schools across the country. These grants went to nine states, two state agencies, and over 20 nonprofit charter management organizations.
“Charter schools are now part of the fabric of American education, and I look forward to seeing how we can continue to work with states to help ensure more students can learn in an environment that works for them,” DeVos said in a statement.
This is not the first time DeVos has been protested while doing her job. In February, protesters physically blocked the education secretary from entering a school where she was scheduled to speak. That protest also had a racial element, as a man stood in front of DeVos’ van with a “Black Lives Matter” sign, as if to say that the education secretary was racist. Indeed, when a newspaper’s political cartoon interpreted the event, leftists called DeVos an “oppressor” and suggested that she walk into a school — the very act she was physically prevented from doing.
The Harvard protest seemed to suggest yet again that when leftists lack cogent arguments against conservative policies or political figures, they resort to shouts of “racism!” and “white supremacy!”
WATCH: Protesters at Harvard University interrupt speech by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. https://t.co/HCKPkAKiSp
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) September 28, 2017