Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Ben Jealous, sharply criticized the picking of the controversial Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, as the University of Baltimore’s Fall Commencement speaker. She is scheduled to give the keynote address for the event now set for December 18th.
A rally was held in the Gordon Plaza on the campus of the UB at noon today, Monday, September 11, 2017, to protest the selection of DeVos. The plaza is located at the intersection of Mount Royal and Maryland Avenues.
The University of Baltimore is located in mid-town Baltimore, near Penn Station. It’s affiliated with the University System of Maryland. UB has an academic staff of 159, with about 3,100 students in the undergraduate programs, and another 2,570 in postgraduate programs, including a Law School.
A monument to Edgar Allan Poe sits in the front of the Gordon Plaza. About hundred students attended the rally. DeVos was appointed to her office by President Donald Trump.
Before Jealous’ comments, a number of the students also spoke out against her selection. The decision that gave DeVos the nod as a commencement speaker, was made by UB’s President Kurt Schmoke.
The students have also circulated a petition making it clear that they oppose the conservative DeVos as a speaker. Currently, it has more than 600 signatures.
DeVos, a businesswoman from Michigan, was an activist in the national Republican Party. She has been a long time champion of “charter schools.”
Another of the reasons the students are upset about the DeVos’s choice is that the Student Government Association (SGA) “was not involved in the discussion about bringing DeVos to speak.” They also feel that she stands politically against the “core of so many of UB’s values” as an institution.
Jealous is the former President of the national NAACP. He announced as a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland on June 1, 2017.
He said it “hurt his heart” to learn that DeVos was going to be the graduation day speaker at UB. He labeled DeVos the most “anti-public education secretary that our country has ever had.”
Jealous continued his remarks by stating that DeVos, who hasn’t been in office that long, “has made it easier for banks to profiteer off of students.” He also claimed that she has “weakened the protection of students against sexual assaults.”
Finally, Jealous, a strong supporter of Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders in the last presidential primary election, charged that DeVos has attacked the very “notion of public education itself.” The students gave his remarks a warm round of applause.
UB’s explanation for picking DeVos was given in a statement by its spokesman – Chris Hart. He said “the school has pursued a commitment to intellectual engagement and an array of opinions” over its 100- year history, and that the choice of DeVos as a speaker is an expression of that laudable goal.
Schmoke, the UB President, was the popular Mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999. Before that, he was the State’s Attorney for the City from 1983-1987. In the past, Schmoke has advocated for “school choice and for school vouchers.” 
Finally, when Schmoke was confronted about the fact that his first cousin, Julian Schmoke, Jr., recently was appointed to a high-profile job in the Office of Federal Student Aid, he answered: “The appointment was purely coincidental.” Schmoke’s cousin will be DeVos’ enforcement chief.