Dozens of students and their parents silently stood up and walked out of the ceremony in South Bend, Indiana on Sunday, when Pence, the state’s former governor, took the stage and began his speech.
Pence was invited after Notre Dame students protested a possible speech by President Donald Trump. He would have been the seventh president to address the event.
The VP began by praising Trump, specifically giving him credit for his address before the leaders of the Muslim world on his maiden overseas trip to Saudi Arabia.
The president "spoke out against religious persecution of all people of all faiths and on the world stage, He condemned, in his words, the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians," Pence told the crowd.
The Trump administration has stirred controversy by introducing various initiatives to curb what they call the threat of "radical Islamic terrorists.”
Trump has signed two executive orders on a visa ban against citizens of several Muslim countries including Iran and Libya. He has also supported the idea of more surveillance against American Muslims.
In Riyadh, however, he claimed that he was carrying a message of "unity” for all religions.
Before Pence’s speech, valedictorian Caleb Joshua Pine urged a "stand against the scapegoating of Muslims" and criticized him for pledging to build a wall on the border with Mexico to prevent immigration.
Another student, who had left the venue with her parents, said they wanted to show solidarity with "those of us impacted by the policies of the Trump administration.”
Pence refused to address the walkout directly but took a jab at the students by raising the issue of freedom of speech.
"This university (Notre Dame) is a vanguard of the freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America," he said.