Dozens of graduates walk out in protest of Pence address

Dozens of students and faculty at Taylor University in Indiana reportedly walked out of a graduation ceremony Saturday minutes before Vice President Pence took the stage to deliver the commencement address.

The protest, which was planned prior to Saturday’s ceremony, comes after the university community debated the appropriateness of Pence’s appearance at the Christian liberal arts institution, according to the Indianapolis Star

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Most of Taylor’s graduating class of 494 students remained for Pence’s speech and gave the former Indiana GOP governor a standing ovation after the walkout, the newspaper reported.

Laura Rathburn, who decorated her cap with a rainbow and a message that said “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be,” said she was disappointed with Taylor University’s decision to invite Pence.

“I thought it was a really inappropriate decision. I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed,” she told the Star before the ceremony.

The school’s social work department also made stickers that said “We are Taylor too” to protest Pence’s presence.

Various Change.org petitions garnered thousands of signatures asking the university to rescind Pence’s invitation.

“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration's policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear,” one said. 

"I knew it was going to be rough because he's such a large political figure and this administration's made some very unpopular and sometimes like harmful decision for people," graduate Jennifer Nelson told the Star. "We have students from all over the world and like even students who have been impacted by some of this administration -- not just the presidency but by Pence when he was governor here."

Students also walked out during Pence's commencement speech at Notre Dame University's graduation ceremony in 2017.

The vice president touted the Trump administration's policies during his speech Saturday in Indiana, saying graduates were entering the job market during strong economic growth.

"You picked a great time to graduate from Taylor University. The America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of optimism and opportunity. You're beginning your careers at a time of a growing American economy and restored American stature at home and abroad," he said.

Pence tweeted Saturday morning to thank Indiana for a "warm welcome" ahead of his commencement address.