CHICAGO (CBS) — About 100 students walked out of their own graduation Sunday morning as Vice President Mike Pence began his commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame.
The protest, which was expected, was in response to Pence’s stance on immigration and gay rights.
On Twitter, the group said it would be respectful and leave quietly, and invited others to demonstrate outside the stadium. It was, agreeably, quiet, but there’s debate on the campus whether it was respectful.
One graduate, Cristina McCabe, said she was “so proud” of her classmates for leaving the ceremony early. Others shared the same confidence regarding their decision.
“It was a statement of protest to the entire Trump/Pence administration,” Jessica Pedroza said.
But not everyone was on board. Some in attendance booed as students left the football field.
Of the 3,000 graduate and undergraduates, the vast majority remained in their seats, and many were critical of the protesters.
“They can’t handle views that are different than their own, which is opposite to everything you’re supposed to learn at a university — especially a university like Notre Dame,” said Ken Monroe, a father of one of the graduates.
The Vice President, the former Indiana governor, said this was a homecoming. He addressed the controversy directly, saying deliberation is welcomed at Notre Dame.
“Where opposing views are debated, where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all the hear!”
“While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe places, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to the suppression of free speech,” Pence said.
Six presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, have delivered the commencement address at Notre Dame, although Pence is the first vice president to do so. When President Barack Obama delivered his speech in 2009, anti-abortion activists protested.
School officials said it would not attempt to stop the protest.
Students on both sides of the issue could agree on one thing; that they’re happy to be graduating.