More than 100 graduating students at the University of Notre Dame walked out Sunday as Vice President Mike Pence began his address at their commencement ceremony.
Pence was chosen to give the commencement address at the nation’s most prominent Catholic university – even though the school ordinarily invites newly inaugurated presidents to give the address in their first year of office. Thousands of students and faculty members had signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite President Donald Trump.
Pence had been the governor of Indiana, the Midwest state where the university is located.
The planned protest was organized by a student organization WeStaNDFor, which said in a release that it was primarily protesting Pence’s opposition to gay rights, his attempts as governor to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana, his support of Trump’s immigration travel ban, and his opposition to sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws.
Before Pence spoke, valedictorian Caleb Joshua Pine urged a “stand against the scapegoating of Muslims” and criticized Trump’s push to build a wall along the Mexican border.
The Notre Dame protest comes after Bethune-Cookman University students booed, chanted and turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during her commencement address at their ceremony earlier this month. At times the booing was so loud, the Florida school’s president admonished the students, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”
Like Pence’s selection at Notre Dame, students at the historically black college criticized its administration’s pick of DeVos ahead of the ceremony.