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Why Notre Dame Students Walked Out During Mike Pence’s Commencement Speech

“They are not snowflakes or sheeples”

Students at Notre Dame via video

Imagine you spent a minimum of four years—and a significant amount of money—on a prestigious education. You’ve dedicated countless hours to studying and stressing to achieve this singular moment of achievement: graduation day. Just one catch: your commencement speaker.

For the thousands at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21, that moment became the fodder for controversy as dozens among the 2017 graduating class of 3,000 staged a silent, but no less dramatic, walkout just as Vice President Mike Pence, the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree, took to the podium. You can see footage via Twitter here:

News outlets reported the planning of this walkout by the student organization WeStaNDFor earlier in the week. The organization said the walkout is in response to the positions on immigration and LGBTQ rights held by Pence and the Trump administration.

The former Indiana governor is Notre Dame’s 172nd commencement speaker. The university’s tradition of inviting first year presidents (a legacy which has included Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) was altered this year with the invitation of Pence. On the school’s website, Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins describes Pence as “a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction, and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen.”

A Notre Dame faculty member has already responded to potential backlash on behalf of the students, and shared via Twitter:

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