As the time of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ visit grew closer, chants of “protect trans kids”, honking horns, and words of agreement shouted through rolled down car windows could be heard from the corner of the intersection of College and Quivira as protesters gathered to voice their opinions on the controversial cabinet member.
Signs of unrest about DeVos’ appeared throughout campus on Wednesday afternoon as news of her visit spread, featuring posters scattered throughout the halls denouncing her positions on key policy issues and her background. These signs were quickly removed due to college policies that do not allow posters of political nature to be posted on campus.
“The campus does have opportunities for this type of free speech to happen in different ways,” said Keith Davenport, Manager of Student Activities and Leadership Development. “One of those is the tables in the commons building, there’s also a designated protest space on campus that individuals can work with our college to be able to use and share that information.”
This ability to protest was utilized on Thursday, as groups gathered not only on the street corner, but also at the heart of the college’s campus. Standing out in front of the Carlsen Center, clad in a sign reading “education should not be a debt sentence,” student Yaneth Poarch was participating in the protest to bring attention to the flaws in her policies, including her views on student debt, guns and her recent actions involving Title IX.
“If somebody thinks that she is wonderful that means that nothing that she has done applies to them,” Poarch said.
Since the time of her nomination, DeVos has been one of the most controversial picks for President Donald Trump’s cabinet. DeVos’ experience with education has been mostly with private and charter schools. She believes in providing alternatives to traditional public schools, along with expanding the country’s school voucher program. Most recently, DeVos announced last week that she would be rescinding Title IX guidelines that were implemented during the Obama administration because she believes they were doing more harm than good.
While some portions of the protest had been planned in advance, student Cal Riedly and his friend came out to protest, not knowing there had been one already going on.
“She thinks she can come here to a community college and people just think that’s all right, so having more people come out here to support shows that we don’t support her or her beliefs and that what she wants to do is completely wrong,” Riedly said.
The most popular topic of discussion at the protests was DeVos views on public education and her lack of experience with the public school system. Many attending were either students or were employed in the field of education.
“She never should have been confirmed because she is unqualified and has no history in public education, and our kid’s education isn’t for sale,” student Lauren Shepard said. “and that’s what she wants to do with it.”
Shepard said her reason for protesting was for people to see that there are people who support public schools and teachers, despite what the current administration does. She stated that she wasn’t there protesting DeVos’ visit and that DeVos could benefit from visiting public schools due to her lack of experience with them.
“I want her to know we don’t agree with what she’s doing,” Shepard said. “She needs to represent the constituents that voted the people in that actually appointed her, wrongly. She needs to know that we’re serious, and that our kid’s education isn’t something we’re willing to play around with.”
Pete Loganbill contributed to this report.