Title IX revisions undermine student safety



In this file photo, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attends the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting at the White House in Washington, DC on June 26, 2020. DeVos encourages parents to send their kids back to school, warning of students falling behind academically without directly addressing the health risks posed by the coronavirus. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Catherine Regen

In my email inbox, when I put “Title IX” into the search bar, among the friendly emails from the Women’s Center there are several Timely Warning: Rape Reported emails, and at the very top the four most recent messages are all regarding the recent changes to the Title IX regulations. The new regulations center around one key change: how colleges and universities respond to sexual misconduct on campuses. 

The Aug. 14 deadline required that universities that receive federal funding change how they respond to reports of sexual misconduct. Let’s quickly acknowledge the absolute insanity that the Department of Education was requiring the creation and implementation of these new response regulations during a pandemic, when uni- versities were already occupied with making campuses safe for students’ returns. 

The new regulations are discriminatory, instituting an entirely separate standard for sex discrimination diverging from the language that is already in place, and is consistent across discrimination response. The new regulations reduce the responsibility of college administrations to respond to reports of sexual misconduct, requiring that they only act on reports within a college-related program. The language problems continue with changing the official definition of sexual harassment from: actions that are so “severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive,” to “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.” The new wording now requires all three judgements to be applied, rather than just one, decreasing the likelihood that every instance of sexual harassment will be investigated. But perhaps the most damaging part is that the new regulations have insanely increased protections for those accused of sexual misconduct. There is a newly required live hearing process that includes cross-examination, as well as the use of “clear and convincing evidence” both of which highly favor the accused over the complainants. Not to mention that any witnesses involved in an investigation for sexual misconduct cases must be cross examined by a representative from each party in order for their testimony to be used as viable evidence.

 Each change and addition is more cruel than the last, making the entire process even more traumatizing and intimidating for survivors than it already was. The regulations are currently facing a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of multiple advocacy groups for survivors of sexual assault and gender equity, because survivors should be believed full stop.

It is truly astounding to me how a single individual with ‘Education’ in her title could cause so much damage.”

So let’s talk about blame. Sometimes placing blame is cathartic, other times it takes the focus away from the crisis at hand, but in instances like these, blame serves to hold those at fault accountable. I could blame a lot of people and institutions for these new regulations: the patriarchy, our society’s inability and lack of desire to protect survivors, our current political climate, the Department of Education as a whole, etc. However, at the very top of my list is one Mrs. Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education and quite possibly Satan incarnate. 

She spearheaded this initiative, spent the year taking meetings with individuals who had been accused of sexual assault, hearing their side, and never meeting with actual survivors – only their representatives.

 It is truly astounding to me how a single individual with “Education” in her title could cause so much damage, but as we have seen, anything is possible from the administration from Hell. And this is only one change, imagine what she’ll do if she gets four more years. DeVos represents, to me, a perfect example of the philosophical Trolly Problem.

 If I had a trolly and the track forked in front of me, on the left is DeVos and on the right is a bunch of American students, I’d happily (hypothetically!) swing to the left and flatten her every single time. I mean even if I picked the right-sided track, DeVos will kill those students with her policies before the trolly does. Luckily for me, I do have a trolly: my ballot, come November, and I will be using it to ship DeVos and her boss out of Washington D.C. once and for all.