(CNN)Wichita State University Tech, an affiliate of Wichita State University in Kansas, canceled Ivanka Trump’s virtual graduation speech amid backlash over President Donald Trump’s response to George Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests.
The public community college announced Thursday that Trump would be a planned speaker for its June 6 virtual commencement, and abruptly canceled it the same day after criticism, according to a joint statement from the presidents of Wichita State and WSU Tech.
“In light of the social justice issues brought forth by George Floyd’s death, I understand and take responsibility that the timing of the announcement was insensitive,” WSU Tech President Sheree Utash said in a separate statement. “For this, I’m sorry that was never the intent, and I want you to know I have heard you and we are responding.”
Instead, the ceremony would be “refocused more centrally on students” and WSU Tech practical nursing graduate Rebecca Zinabu would be the sole speaker, according to the release.
Utash said the invitation to Trump was extended in February and that the White House adviser offered to record a “congratulatory message to graduates” to be played during the ceremony.
On Friday, Trump posted the nearly 10-minute prerecorded address on Twitter and spoke out about “cancel culture.”
“Our nation’s campuses should be bastions of free speech. Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia. Listening to one another is important now more than ever!” she wrote on Twitter.
In her video message, Trump focused on the coronavirus pandemic and said her “heart goes out” to the graduates on this day, adding “changes and hardships do not predict failure. In fact they can be the greatest impetus for success … You are a wartime graduate.”
A White House official told CNN that Trump recorded the message more than two weeks ago, prior to the May 25 death of Floyd and the beginning of demonstrations across the country.
Utash said that the graduates will still be able to view prerecorded “congratulatory messages” from more than 30 people including Trump.
The decision to drop Trump from the graduation ceremony came after the university faced public pressure in the form of a widely circulated open letter signed by nearly 500 of its faculty, students and alumni, according to The Wichita Eagle. The letter, penned by an associate professor, argued that allowing Trump to speak during the ceremony would send the wrong message about the school’s commitment to diversity, the paper reported.
“Ivanka Trump, obviously, represents her father’s administration as one of his closest advisors. To many Americans, that administration has come to signify the worst of our country, particularly in its recent actions toward those peacefully protesting against racist police brutality,” read the letter, which has since been removed, according to The Wichita Eagle.
The move from the university, and Trump’s reaction to their decision, comes after a week of continued nationwide protests including some right outside the White House.
Federal law enforcement on Monday used tear gas and rubber bullets to push back the crowd of peaceful protesters outside the White House, after which Trump walked across the street to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op. Ivanka Trump accompanied her father to the church, carrying the Bible that the President held up as he posed for pictures.
CNN previously reported that Ivanka Trump was involved in the process of planning the President’s church visit.