Title IX is just an archean law that combats things like students drawing genitalia on whiteboards in residence halls for many college students.
But for victims of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination, Title IX serves a greater purpose.
Title IX was first signed into law by Richard Nixon to prevent discrimination based on sex in both the workplace and schools. In 2015, advocates wanting to end sexual violence began using Title IX laws as a gateway for victims of sexual harassment and assault to come forward with their cases.
This shift has resulted in Title IX often being associated with laws about sexual misconduct on college campuses. The civil rights law has undergone many changes, the most recent being the proposals made by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
The 149 page draft of changes to Title IX aims to provide protections and equality to students accused of rape or sexual assault. New rules implemented by DeVos will clarify what statutes fall under Title IX realm of control and will implement a presumption of innocence for the accused.
While some of the changes are beneficial in seeking equality, too many of the them, like needing clear cut evidence to even begin the process of a hearing, lack a coherent thought process.
They would uproot services offered to victims through Title IX, thereby dissuading victims from coming forward and giving the upper hand to perpetrators rather than victims.
DeVos is simply trying to undermine Obama-era changes with her proposals. And these proposals that only strive to dismantle its predecessor will ultimately fail victims of sexual harassment and assault.
In its current state, Title IX mandates that colleges pursue cases that happen on campus as well as off campus. DeVos’ new proposals would limit the cases able to be investigated by Title IX offices to those that take place on campus.
The mentality of “what happens off campus stays off campus” is detrimental to victims of sexual assault and harassment. It is no secret that countless college parties and other events are hosted on off-campus sites. Even students who avoid the party scene frequently come into contact with one another at off-campus housing and other public spaces, making an off-campus sexual encounter just as likely as one on campus.
Telling colleges that they do not need to interfere with or investigate sexual assault and harassment if it happens off campus is picking and choosing when to feel empathy for victims.
Whether the accusations stem from an event on or off campus, colleges should still be concerned for both parties involved. If a traumatic incident happens off campus, victims will not suddenly forget what happened after stepping onto campus, especially if the perpetrator is also a student.
If colleges truly cared about the well-being of its students, they would recognize that a victim's focus and mental clarity decreases after invasive potentially traumatic experiences.
Among the changes is the implementation of live fact-finding hearings. Colleges would have mandatory hearings where both parties can cross-examine each other via advisors.
On the surface, it looks as if DeVos actually succeeded in creating a way for both parties to have adequate legal representation, but in practice the hearings leave victims struggling to even come forward about incidents of assault or harassment due to the leverage given to the accused by DeVos.
The hearings are an extension of the general goal of bringing equality to Title IX. But DeVos has again left the victim powerless in her attempts to bring change. The proposals would give the upper hand to the assailant by allowing them the chance to have their advisor be a skilled legal attorney while leaving the victim in the trust of untrained college administrators to advise them.
Trained lawyers going against campus administrators is comparable to bringing a gun to a knife fight and whether or not someone was sexually assaulted or harassed should call for an equal playing field — knife against knife.
DeVos has made a pitiful attempt in evening out the playing field for both parties in sexual assault and harassment incidents. Her proposals for live hearings and out of sight, out of mind mentality will lead to the fall of what Title IX has been working toward.
Title IX is far from being a perfect solution, but with DeVos in charge, all of the efforts made by Title IX will disappear if the proposals are passed.
Advocating for victims of sexual assault and harassment is something irrelevant to DeVos. Her proposals use Title IX as a way to tear apart Obama-era changes and push her current agenda.
The U.S. Department of Education should be doing all it can to enhance the learning environment of students, but with DeVos leading campaigns that disenfranchise students, this doesn’t seem to be a priority.
The blatant disregard for the needs of victims shows that DeVos is only concerned with playing politics and using important laws such as Title IX to back politically biased agendas. Victims of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct are not political objects.
Whether or not someone was invaded in a perverse way is a moral and legal issue that should be handled with care. Rape and assault are not battlegrounds for politics. DeVos hides her politically-backed motivation behind the fallacy that she is changing Title IX to achieve equality.
While equality and a presumption of innocence are essential when dealing with cases of sexual assault and harassment, DeVos seems to not have the slightest idea in how to achieve that. Frankly, she doesn’t want to initiate change, she wants to eradicate anything pre-Trump.
Her political power move may succeed in propelling her outdated agenda, but DeVos is further disregarding the rights and humanity of victims of sexual assault and harassment with her ignorant proposals.