During the ceremony, which took place at the Kaplan Arena, located on the University’s campus, a small group of protesters began shouting, chanting and holding up a banner that read, “G. Youngkin is a Bigot!” just as Chancellor Robert M. Gates and Rector John Littel were about to confer an honorary degree on Youngkin.
After about a minute of yelling, the group slowly left the arena as supporters of Youngkin shouted back.
Just as the aforementioned group filtered out, another person located in a different section stood up and shouted in opposition to the governor. That person also left on their own accord but was flanked by police officers.
W&M President Katherine Rowe stood during the disruptions and admonished the protesters.
“I ask those of you who are disrupting this event to stop immediately and to let this program continue consistent with the policies and the values of this University,” Rowe said during her unplanned address. “We have honored guests today and we will treat every one of them with the respect that they are warranted and deserve. We will reflect the strength of our community in doing so.”
After order was restored to the ceremony, Youngkin addressed the crowd about the importance of higher education in the Commonwealth as well as the importance of creating opportunities for all high school students.
“Ensuring the future pipeline of college students is critical,” Youngkin said. “We also need to recognize that we have an objective to make sure Virginia high school students are also career ready.”
Scott, who represents Virginia’s 3rd District, is the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, spoke to the crowd about how rising college costs are putting higher education out of reach for most Americans.
“College is the great equalizer in America,” Scott said. “If the American dream is to be a reality, we all have to do everything we can to ensure that all students have affordable access to higher education.”
This is the University’s 329th Charter Day. It is a celebration of the school’s founding on February 8, 1693 by way of a Royal Charter issued by King William III and Queen Mary II. The University is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. was founded in 1636.