(UPI) — Texas Southern University canceled a scheduled commencement appearence by state Sen. John Cornyn amid student backlash.
The historically black university announced Friday that Cornyn, a Republican, would not speak at the commencement ceremony on Saturday but would be invited back to the university for another appearance in the future.
“We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep focus on graduates and their families,” the university said in a statement.
A Change.org petition to cancel Cornyn’s appearance at the commencement ceremony received 863 signatures.
The petition cited the senator’s support of “discriminatory policies and politicians” such as voting in favor of voter ID laws, constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and approving the appointment of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
“This is our graduation,” the petition stated. “We have the right to decide if we want to refuse to sit and listen to the words of a politician who chooses to use his political power in ways that continually harm, marginalized and oppressed people.”
The university did not address the concerns mentioned in the petition, but told the Texas Tribune the change was made to “ensure that our students and families enjoyed their special day.”
“Commencement exercises are special moments for our students, their families and the entire university,” the university’s statement said. “Every consideration is made to ensure that our student’s graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come.”
Two Democratic members of Congress from Houston, U.S. Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, remained a part of the program and were set to speak as scheduled.
Cornyn’s representative said the senator respected the university’s decision and awaits the opportunity to return.
“Senator Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the Administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the University in the future,” the statement said.
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