The Present Disgraces and Grim Future of Title IX Protections

Title IX’s defining mission is to “prohibit sex discrimination in all forms, including sexual violence and/or harassment.” On college campuses, policies regarding how to report sexual assault are promoted to ensure the safety of their students and convince them that in case of assault, they will be fully helped and protected. Yet, the help they need continues to fall short - even right here at Stony Brook University.

 

A lawsuit has recently been filed by an SBU alum, 24 year-old Erin Mosier, against a history professor for sexual assault during the 2016-2017 academic year. For six months she was led down a path by both Title IX and university officers filled with roadblocks that ultimately added to the trauma she experienced from her assaulter, solidifying her decision to file a $3 million lawsuit against not only the professor involved but the entire university and SUNY system. “I walked away feeling hopeless,” she said in a recent interview with The Statesman after trying to get help from university officials. “From most meetings at Stony Brook I walked away feeling hopeless.”

 

Going to Title IX for further help did anything but alleviate her traumas; according to a report by The Statesman a representative told her “we cannot guarantee your safety.” From being told of a 60-day process to experiencing six months’ worth of poorly handled meetings and investigations, she was left largely unprotected against her assaulter. Title IX gave her little information to further ensure her safety, and the professor was not removed from the university campus until he brought a private investigator onto school grounds.

 

Who could be to blame for these incompetent Title IX procedures is none other than Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has recently withdrawn some Obama-era policies that increased protections of victims against those they accused of assault. Her defense for these backwards policies is to “reinstate proper due process laws for the accused.” DeVos is looking to balance their increased protections with those of the accused, with her defending point being “guaranteed constitutional rights.”

"Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug,” DeVos stated, according to CNN. “But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes."

 

According to The Detroit News, the Education Department is also looking to redefine what constitutes as sexual harassment, calling it "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school's education program or activity." Blatantly ignorant and uninformed, this new interpretation narrows down acceptable sexual assault claims to a fraction of what has been accepted and investigated by universities and Title IX before, which in turn will leave students at a significantly larger risk of unpunished sexual harassment and assault on school grounds.

 

As if they weren’t already frightened enough to call out their abusers, DeVos’s policy changes would only scare more victims of abuse into silence rather than go through the grueling process of filing a claim on top of their traumas experiencing sexual assault. The safety and security of students may be at stake here, and we should tolerate these disgraces no more. It’s time to put college students first, for once.