Some graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their own graduation ceremony to protest Vice President Pence when he began to deliver the commencement speech on Sunday morning.
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 signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite President Trump, and the university chose instead to invite Pence, a former Indiana governor.
A coalition of student activist groups at Notre Dame called We StaND For planned a walkout to protest policies Pence pursued as governor that they say targeted the most vulnerable. Pence was planning to seek reelection as governor when Trump selected him to be his vice presidential running mate in the summer of 2016, but Pence was unpopular at the time in his own state and many thought he would lose his reelection bid.
School officials knew of the student walkout plans and did not try to stop them. The students — more than 100 out of a few thousand who were earning degrees — walked quietly out, and there were some cheers and boos sounded, though only briefly. Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said Notre Dame has been the site of protests of presidents and vice presidents in the past, and as long as the students did not disrupt the ceremony, it would be allowed to take place.