On Sept. 7 during a speech at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made clear her intention to review and revise Obama-era guidelines on how colleges should handle sexual assault cases under Title IX. Later that day, she clarified in an interview with CBS News that her intent was ultimately to rescind the guidelines outlined in the Obama Administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which rearticulated and clarified certain Title IX standards.
A rollback of Title IX would affect students, staff and faculty at the University of Minnesota, notably in the way that sexual assault would be handled at the University level. Currently, Title IX cases are handled through the Title IX coordinator, Tina Marisam, in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at the University. Should federal regulations regarding Title IX change in the upcoming months, this process could potentially change as well.
It is unclear what the potential effects of a Title IX rollback would be for students or to what extent they would impact the way in which sexual assault cases are handled at the University. However, in the face of a potential rescindment of guidelines that protect victim-survivors, it is imperative that the University make a strong commitment to protecting University students. In the event of a Title IX rollback, the University should assume the responsibility of implementing policies that ensure proper handling of sexual assault cases. Especially in light of the campaign last year to fund the Aurora Center, which provides critical services to victim-survivors and has been running on a budget deficit for years, the University must take it upon itself to protect students and make clear its stance regarding sexual assault.
There are still actions that advocates can take now to fight against a Title IX rollback in the first place. During her remarks at George Mason, DeVos announced that the Department of Education is holding a “notice-and-comment process” in order to gain public feedback on how to best advance in order to “replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system.”
In response to this call, student advocates at the University of Minnesota mobilized to collect comments regarding the potential rescindment of the guidelines set in the “Dear Colleague” letter. The Minnesota Student Association recently posted on their Facebook page encouraging students, in particular those with experience utilizing the services of the EOAA office, to submit their comments and stories to DeVos in an effort to preserve the rights of victim-survivors. I encourage everyone to submit comments at the Department of Education’s comments forum in strong favor of current Title IX guidelines, given that they are crucial to ensuring the protection of student victim-survivors.
This movement is shocking to me because we, as advocates, are not fighting to move forward, but rather to prevent the loss of policy that benefits students. The Obama-era guidelines regarding Title IX and sexual assault are crucial to ensuring justice for victim-survivors at the University of Minnesota and across the country.
Editor’s Note: The Department of Education is accepting public comments for the review of Title IX regulations at z.umn.edu/TitleIXComment.