Why You Should Take Action On Title IX

Trigger Warning: This post discusses topics relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment and the like.

There is no name that puts a sour taste in my mouth like Betsy DeVos.

If you are unfamiliar with DeVos, then prepare for the unfortunate introduction. DeVos is our current Secretary of Education. She is married to the 88th wealthiest individual in America and has a net worth of $5.1 billion. Beyond her consequent inability to relate to a majority of Americans, she has no place making decisions for our public education system. With no education degree, no teaching experience, and no public school experience, DeVos landed her role as Secretary of Education due to economic privilege.

Her unqualified nature presents itself in her ambition to tarnish the Title IX guidelines put into place by the Obama Administration. Title IX offers legal protections within the scope of the US education system which states, in sum, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

In this statement, we see one of the initial changes made by the Trump Administration: the elimination of “gender identity.” Consequently, transgender and other non-binary folks are no longer included in access to Title IX protections.

Another proposed change to the Title IX guidelines states that students may only report their cases to the Title IX office if their experience occurred at a university-sponsored event, activity or location. As we know from our campus safety emails, sexual assault occurs most abundantly at off-campus locations like fraternity houses, apartments, and bars. By repealing access to these resources based on location, reports will inevitably decrease as will accountability.

The changes to Title IX also state that if a student is sexually assaulted during their time in a study abroad program, even if this program is through the University, they are not permitted to report their experience to Title IX upon their return.

Cross-examination is yet another one of DeVos’ shameful propositions. Many survivors choose to report to Title IX as the emotional drain is far less severe than in the US court system. Thus, the repercussions for perpetrators are also far less extreme. In cross-examination, survivors and perpetrators will be placed in the same room and questioned. Each is allowed a representative of their choice who may be an attorney. Thus, if the perpetrator is of high economic status, they can pick a seasoned attorney. If the survivor is of lower economic status, they may have their parent. This unjustly takes the safety of Title IX reporting and twists it into a version of the US legal system. The catch - despite increased severity in the questioning of survivors and potential emotional scarring, the proposed changes mention nothing about tighter consequences for perpetrators.

These potential changes to Title IX do not end here. Unfortunately, the injustice continues. If you would like to read more about the proposed changes, check out the Equal Rights Advocates website. If you want to take action, please make a comment of opposition on the official Department of Education page. Check out the Students Against Sexual Assault UIUC Facebook for insight on how to comment. Be sure to submit by January 28, 2019.

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