U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will speak at the University of Baltimore's fall commencement, school officials said Friday.
DeVos will deliver the keynote address at the ceremony scheduled for Dec. 18.
"Throughout our nearly 100-year history, UB has pursued a commitment to intellectual engagement and an array of opinions," university spokesman Chris Hart said in a statement, "this is a foundational goal at our institution and is today expressed in our invitation to the Secretary to speak to and get to know our community."
DeVos is a vocal critic of public schools. She supports "school choice," or allowing families to use public funds to send their children to private schools. Teachers' unions and other supporters of public education say such allowances take much needed funding away from public schools. Devos has said it will create competition for students and help public schools improve.
She has also made historically inaccurate remarks about "school choice" that some found racially insensitive. When she spoke at Bethune-Cookman University's commencement last spring, students at the historically black institution in Florida booed her and many turned their backs on her as she spoke.
The University of Baltimore news comes the same week that DeVos announced plans to rewrite Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault policy.
Mariame Dangnokho, the Student Government Association president, wrote in a letter to students that the SGA was not involved in the discussion about bringing DeVos to speak.
More than 600 people signed a petition as of 5 p.m. Friday saying they do not want DeVos as commencement speaker.
"UB is a place that supports social justice, and students consistently fight for what is right in the Baltimore community," the petition reads. "Ms. DeVos seems to go against the very core of so many of UB's values and makes our mission statement look to be a mockery."
Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross called on the university to rescind the invitation.
"The University of Baltimore's decision to invite her to speak at their fall commencement is an insult to the hardworking graduates of the class of 2017 that should spend graduation day celebrating their accomplishments," he said in a statement.