As Vice President Mike Pence began his commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday, graduating students decided to walk out, according to the Washington Post.
A petition signed by thousands, including students and faculty, requested that the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, refrain from inviting President Trump. The university is the nation's most prominent Catholic institution, and typically extends the invitation to newly sitting presidents in their first term, according to the Post. So they had decided to invited Pence instead.
Multiple student activist groups joined together under the name "We StaND For" and had planned a coordinated walk out during the speech in protest of "policies Pence pursued as governor that they say targeted the most vulnerable," according to the Post. The planned action was known to school officials beforehand, however they did not attempt to prevent students from doing so. Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said students would not be stopped as long as the demonstration did not disturb the ceremony.
Students had particular issue with Pence's positions on Syrian refugees not being allowed in the country, his opposition to gay rights and anti-immigration policies, according to USA Today.
"The participation and degree-conferring of VP Pence stand as an endorsement of policies and actions which directly contradict Catholic social teachings and values and target vulnerable members of the University's community," Notre Dame student Xitlaly Estrada of "We StaND For" said in a released statement, according to USA Today.
On its twitter page, the activist group tweeted instructions for the demonstration, but stressed that things remain peaceful and did not disrupt the ceremony. "Sit with a friend in your college. Stand up and walk out once Mike Pence starts to speak. Respectfully and quietly exit the stadium. Join us for a short commencement celebration. Share on social media. #WALKOUTND," the tweet said.