0625 GMT July 22 2017
More than 800 people signed a petition opposing Texas Southern University's invitation to Sen. John Cornyn to speak at Saturday's graduation in Houston.
“This is our graduation. 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 petition said.
The petition cited Cornyn's votes to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as two of US President Donald Trump's cabinet appointees.
It also raised complaints about Cornyn's support for voter ID laws and efforts to block funding for “sanctuary cities.”
The decision by officials at Texas Southern University to cancel Cornyn’s invitation came after students booed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' commencement speech at the historically black Bethune-Cookman University, thus disrupting the ceremony.
“Commencement exercises are special moments for our students, their families and the entire University. 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," Texas Southern University said in a statement on Friday.
“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. We, along with Senator Cornyn, agree that the primary focus of commencement should be a celebration of academic achievement.”
University spokesperson Kendrick Callis declined to comment further about whether the decision was a result of the row over DeVos' speech this week.
According to reports, the commencement ceremony, which will take place Saturday, will still include Democratic Republicans Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee.
"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," a spokesperson for Cornyn said in a statement.