Harvard students disrupt Betsy DeVos’ speech with banners, raised fists

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Students silently protested Secretary Betsy DeVos while she was speaking at a conference at Harvard University Thursday evening, unrolling cloth banners that read “white supremacist” and “educational justice is racial justice,” among others.

DeVos was at Harvard as the headline speaker at a conference on school choice, one of DeVos’s pet issues, backed by the Koch brothers — but the conference had no critics of school choice. The conference runs Thursday and Friday at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

When DeVos began to speak, some students stood and raised their fists, and others held up banners. “Our students are not for sale,” one banner said. The student holding the banner and another student near him who stood and raised his fist were removed from the talk.

Another banner read simply, “Dark money.”

Thursday’s speech at the school choice conference was DeVos’ first major public appearance since she reversed Obama-era sexual assault guidelines last week, a move advocates say could keep survivors from reporting their assaults. “DeVos ignored the protesters and did not directly address” the decision to reverse college sexual assault guidance during her speech, “which focused on promoting school choice,” Raw Story reported.

As ThinkProgress’ Casey Quinlan reported, advocates for sexual assault survivors at Harvard have been pushing back against the guidelines, and Harvard is “reviewing” DeVos’ decision, according to the school’s paper.

The DeVos protests cap off a politically fraught month for the university.

Last week, protesters at the school disrupted former FBI Director James Comey’s speech, as a group chanted “no justice, no peace,” and “Get out James Comey, you’re not our homie,” throughout his speech.

Earlier this month, Harvard announced former White House aids Corey Lewandowski — who was charged with battery during the campaign — and Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, would be coming to Harvard as fellows. The university also offered a fellowship to whistleblower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning, but Harvard rescinded the offer after backlash.

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