While President Elect Donald Trump and his team have certainly been quoted on an abundance of topics that have surprised our nation, there is something in particular that stands out. Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education, stated in a recent senate hearing that it would be “premature” to commit to campus guidance regarding sexual assault (Washington Post). DeVos has also strayed from supporting Title IX specifically and all that it stands for. Students should begin to worry what exactly this could mean for not only themselves, but for all the other young men and women who are attending colleges and universities across our nation.
One may wonder what Title IX is – Title IX is a federal law that protects students in regards to sexual assault and violence and equality within their campus. This law has come across somewhat unclear to many in the past, however the Obama Administration made a point to address the specifics of it with the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter.” The purpose of this letter was to truly outline what student’s rights on campuses are and to explain how they should always be protected. Under the Obama Administration, colleges were encouraged to get highly involved in sexual assault and harassment cases, hoping to reach a better outcome for the students who dealt with it and help reassure equality on campuses. This was included, but not limited to always making sure students feel safe and secure while at their school. There are concerns that, at times, cases have been dealt with incorrectly, which is something that obviously needs to be avoided. These issues that unfortunately occur on campuses throughout our country are personal and should be handled with as much respect and solace as possible. Not only should all college age students have a complete understanding of what their rights are, they should also know that they will have total support if their rights are ever violated.
Now, how does DeVos tie into all this? Not only has she been entirely unclear on what her exact plans are regarding supporting Title IX, she has also donated thousands of dollars to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE is an organization that got sponsored the suing of the national government in regards to the Dear Colleague Letter, saying that it was issued illegally. This fact should definitely act as a warning to young students that DeVos may not ever commit to supporting Title IX. If that happens, the Trump administration will leave campus sexual assault and harassment cases to the police, which could potentially lead to them being handled incorrectly and slowly. DeVos may say she hopes to seek resolutions for these issues, however it should make people feel somewhat uneasy that DeVos, our Secretary of Education, cannot do so by first endorsing Title IX. How could a law that protects/supports students and their rights not begin to resolve the problem of harassment and assault?
As a young collegiate myself, I am in complete shock at DeVos’ inability to commit to this law. I would hope that the new Secretary of Education would be capable of supporting something that guarantees equality and protection for students across our nation. It behooves me that she considers doing so “premature.” Ignoring the true meaning and purpose of Title IX could mean colleges and universities will no longer believe it is their own responsibility to address these crimes, leaving it to the police which could potentially result in even larger problems. It is vital for all students to feel as protected and respected as possible, which would not be possible without the support of their school. This could also put a stop to the reduction of sexual violence within campuses. Being a college student, I worry about all of these things and hope that Betsy DeVos does everything she can to make sure I, alongside every other student in the nation, always feels comfortable and guarded on our own campus.