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TSU cancels Sen. Cornyn's scheduled commencement appearance

Following concerns over potential protests, a Texas senator was asked not to deliver a speech Friday at Texas Southern University’s Saturday commencement. 

Senator John Cornyn was one of three scheduled speakers for TSU’s commencement ceremony.

"They should have at least talked to the graduates about what they do want to see, because at the end of the day, these are the people who paid tuition for four years," said senior Channing Stewart. “He may want to speak, but it's the graduates’ decision. They were the ones who worked for four, four-plus years.”

On campus, feelings ranged from disagreeing with the senator's politics to recent statements President Donald Trump made about funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Even though the president said he supports continued funding, many are skeptical and look at Cornyn as a supporter of the president's administration.

“I think the university made the right decision by removing him from the situation,” said graduating senior Marcus Smith.

Smith said talk of politics quickly blossomed into talk of protests during the ceremony, a sentiment that gained steam on social media.

“I think that what the university really wanted to do was make this less about our political stance and the funds we need for our University and make it more so about the students,” Smith said.

In a statement to KPRC, TSU officials wrote, “We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep (the) focus on graduates and their families.”

Cornyn's office also wrote, “Senator Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision.”

Many on TSU’s campus looked to the recent protests that overshadowed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, another historically black college.

TSU students’ feelings towards senator Cornyn were formalized in a petition started by graduating senior, Rebecca Trevino. The petition on Change.org, which garnered more than 800 signatures, asked for the senator to not be allowed to deliver his speech.

TSU officials said, as scheduled, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressman Al Green will still deliver their speeches at the commencement.