Students speak out against proposed Title IX reforms

DePaul students voiced their discontent against proposed Title IX changes made by the Department of Education by holding a letter-writing campaign in Arts & Letters on Friday, Jan. 18.

On Nov. 16, 2018, the DOE proposed controversial changes to Title IX, particularly as it relates to reporting sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses. Some of the proposed reforms include, but are not limited to, reducing the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual misconduct, making survivors of assault provide “clear and convincing” evidence that they were assaulted and allowing schools to ignore instances of assault that occur off-campus, according to Equal Rights Advocates.

In order to combat the legislation before it is approved, DePaul students wrote public comments to DOE in an event hosted by women’s support groups based in Chicago. The goal of the workshop was to have students challenge the proposals during the comment period, in which the government set aside time for public comments.

“The Department of Education is required to respond on every single comment they recieve,” said Shalini Mirpuri, prevention manager at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). “That is why the comment period is so amazing, because they have to answer you.”

Students listened in disbelief at the proposed reforms, with one student asking, “Why Title IX?”

Many believe that the proposals are an act of blatant misogyny and continues the pattern of bigoted behavior within the Trump Administration.

“I think [the proposals] says exactly what we think it says. I think there is no hiding, I think the devil is certainly in the details with these,” Mirpuri said. “It is a direct manifestation and creation of how this administration feels about women.”

While Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos claimed the revisions were crafted to “condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetuate it, while ensuring a fair grievance process,” some believe that they were crafted in order to reduce the accountability of schools in case of sexual misconduct.

“It benefits institutions,” said Sasha Solov, the project coordinator of Violence of Illinois Campuses Elimination Strategies for Life Span. “Because they’re narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, the narrowing of who has to report anything of the institution, [it] makes it so schools are much less likely to get in trouble if they were to mishandle a case or if they ignore misconduct occurring within their reach.”

The issue of sexual misconduct has increasingly become more politicized in recent years. When Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of rape by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in September 2018, there was an intense political divide between liberals and conservatives.

“Anytime there is a radical proposal in which women are championing for something that benefits them, its being perceived as, in turn, threatening the rights of the opposite sex,” Mirpuri said. “I think that men have historically been in this position of power, and that anytime that position is threatened, its seen as a partisan issue.”

While sexual misconduct is commonly associated with being a woman’s issue, men are similarly susceptible to sexual assault and harassment, with one out of every 10 rape victims being male, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Despite the risk presented to men, some believe that men are afraid to condemn acts of sexual violence out of fear of betraying their gender.

“I think men care. I don’t think enough men care, and if they do, they’re not speaking out,” said junior Alex Valdivia. “Nobody is above the law, and I think that’s why men are afraid to speak out, because they’re afraid they are turning against other men.”

Despite the threat posed by the policy reforms, Mirpuri has faith in individuals and advises people to recognize the personal ramifications of politics.

“Politics are certainly personal, they are the most personal,” Mirpuri said. “They dictate how people have livelihoods and how they navigate the rest of the world.”