On Friday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded an Obama-era policy on sexual assault on campus — which made it easier for victims to report assaults, increased schools' reporting responsibility, and zeroed in on gender discrimination — and introduced new, temporary rules in its place. The news has already shocked survivors of assault and their advocates, who claim the change is a huge step backwards in combatting assault on campus. If you're worried about the impact the reversal could have on survivors, here's how to protest Devos' campus sexual assault policy changes.
First, it's important to understand exactly what the changes mean. According to Bloomberg, President Obama's instructions to schools in 2011 and 2014 were to use "the preponderance of the evidence" standard when approaching sexual assault claims on campus, which non-profit group End Rape on Campus describes as resolving a case by asking "Was it more likely than not that the sexual violence or harassment occurred?"
Obama also informed colleges and universities that, under Title IX (a law prohibiting gender discrimination in education), they had to establish policies for tackling sexual assault and harassment in order to continue receiving federal funding. Now, however, DeVos' change in policy will allow schools to decide on their own what standard of evidence they would like to use — whether that means continuing on with "the preponderance of the evidence" standard or shifting to "the clear and convincing evidence" standard, which makes a crime substantially harder to prove.
DeVos said her changes would allow schools to treat "all students fairly," according to the Associated Press, creating a "fair and impartial" process that would give all students "more confidence in its outcomes." But Know Your IX, an organization that works to end sexual assault on campus, argued that the changes would only push survivors back into the dark, staying in a statement:
Today’s guidance allows schools to systematically stack campus investigations against survivors and push survivors out of school. The Department of Education is sending the message that they value survivors’ access to education less than that of the students who assault and abuse them.
To protest the policy, here's what you can do:
Support Organizations That Support Survivors
Throw your volunteering time and donations behind organizations that will fight for survivors' rights. Know Your IX, the Human Rights Campaign, End Rape on Campus, and several other organizations are fighting to change the conversation about sexual assault and harassment on campuses and to help stop it. In the days and months to come, they'll be working to try and help students affected by DeVos' change in policy, so if you can donate time, funds, or simply spread awareness of their work, you'll be helping.
Reach Out To Colleges & Universities
If you're currently a student or if you studied in the past at a certain university, reach out to let them know that current and former students care about the protection of survivors. Ask them about their policies, and inquire about their investigations into cases of assault.
Know Your IX has some helpful scripts for both phone calls to universities as well as for emails to be sent to university presidents. Most people have paid an arm and a leg to go on to higher education, so colleges and universities have a vested interest in listening to their students (aka, customers).
Make Your Voice Heard
Whether it's attending a protest (there was already one organized by End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX recently), familiarizing yourself with state laws and write your representatives about doing more to protect survivors, or spreading awareness among friends and family, make your voice heard. Let the Department of Education, lawmakers, and universities and colleges know exactly how you feel — and, almost more importantly, let survivors know you're there for them.
Title IX is still the law of the land, and survivors still deserve protection and fearless access to education — even if DeVos' actions on Friday may tell survivors otherwise.
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