Dozens of Taylor University students and faculty walked out of Vice President Mike Pence's commencement speech during Saturday's graduation ceremony

By Matt McNulty
May 18, 2019 06:35 PM
Martin H. Simon - Pool/Getty Images

Dozens of Taylor University faculty members and graduating students walked out of Mike Pence’s commencement speech on Saturday morning.

The group quietly exited the auditorium in protest of the appropriateness of Pence’s presence at the graduation ceremony in Upland, Indiana. Shortly before the vice president delivered the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school’s commencement speech, many were seen leaving their seats.

The protest had been planned beforehand, as controversy surrounded his invitation to speak at the commencement ceremony when it was announced earlier this month, according to the Indianapolis Star.

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Pence, 59, has remained a controversial figure in an already controversial Trump administration, with the former Indiana governor having a history of anti-LGBTQ political positions.

During his commencement address, he took the opportunity to express his religious beliefs in front of the 494 graduates

“Throughout most of our American history it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian, but things are different now,” Pence said during his speech, according to the Star. “Lately, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.”

Not everyone shared the protestors opinion of the Vice President, as Pence received a standing ovation after the walkout.

But for the dozens of graduates and faculty members who left in protest of Pence’s speech, the walkout made the statement that his presence was not entirely welcomed by the Taylor University student body.

“I thought it was a really inappropriate decision,” graduate Laura Rathburn, who joined protestors in walking out on Pence’s commencement address, told the Star. “I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed.”

Stickers created by the school’s social work department and distributed to the protestors read, “We are Taylor too,” in protest of the Vice President’s speech.

Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Pence is the first official from the U.S. executive branch to speak at the Christian university of about 2,500 students.

Protesters cited the lack of input from students and faculty regarding the choice of Pence for the ceremony’s commencement speech.

Pence spoke last Saturday at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is scheduled to speak to U.S. Army cadet graduates at West Point next Saturday.

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