On September 22, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her administration announced that the Department of Education is withdrawing two crucial Obama-era guidelines: the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Both guidelines served to clarify institutional responsibility to protect survivors of sexual assault. These rollbacks allow colleges and universities to use higher standards of evidence, use mediation and cross-examination methods, and deny survivors their right to appeal a decision. Due to these changes, the emotional trauma and triggering manner in which these cases can now be handled can have even longer lasting effects on survivors. These inhumane measures take away the rights of students to have access to education free from violence. All students deserve the right to a safe and meaningful education.
- Support survivors: Provide ways to support survivors on your campus. Commit students and student advocacy groups on your campus to protecting survivors in various ways. Groups can create resource kits that include information about safe spaces on campus, where to receive easily accessible counseling, hotline information for survivors, and information about local hospitals that provide rape kits and forensic examinations. Additionally, groups should advocate for whatever the needs of the students are on that campus, such as pushing for free and accessible health resources (like Plan B) in on-campus health centers.
- Raise awareness about the effects of DeVos’ Title IX Rollbacks for all students: Host events, rallies, social media campaigns, and/or demonstrations that help bring to light the ways in which student protections under Title IX will be jeopardized. By holding these events, more students will have a better understanding of what Title IX is and what the implication of Betsy DeVos’ actions will have on their Title IX rights. If DeVos and the Trump administration are able to go through with the actions that have been proposed, students’ rights could be compromised. It is important that students understand what their Title IX rights are, as well as the ways in which their college/university enforces those Title IX rights.
- Hold your University accountable. Immediately issue a statement to your administration about urging them to uphold the Title IX protections: Under the Obama administration, the “Dear Colleague” Letter enacted policies on college/university campuses by providing guidelines about how investigations and hearings should be conducted in sexual assault cases. It is important that students and school advocacy groups reach out to the President, Title IX coordinators, and other high-ranking school officials at their college/university about continuing the practices that were previously enacted on campus. It is also important to demand more resources for transgender and gender non-conforming survivors. In a survey of 27 college/universities, three in four LGBT students reported experiencing sexual harassment. Also, student activists should demand that Title IX processes be made clear, transparent, and easily accessible for all survivors to navigate. Statements can be made to your high-ranking school officials through email, in-person meetings, petitions, and social media campaigns. It is crucial that administrators are held accountable for their role in keeping these practices in place, regardless of the outside pressures from the Trump administration. Urge your college/university to create an environment of accountability that addresses the epidemic of sexual assault.
- Connect with feminist and survivor advocacy groups/organizations: Students on college campuses around the country can get in touch with End Rape on Campus (EROC), a survivor advocacy group that works towards ensuring an end to sexual violence on school campuses. Another great resource is Know Your IX, an organization that empowers students to help put an end to gender-based violence on their respective campuses.
- Involve alumni: Encourage the alumni from your school to write and disseminate a letter, call their institutions to uphold the Dear Colleague Letter, and take a strong stance against Betsy DeVos plans to rollback survivor rights.