Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos and Title IX: There’s No Room for “Review”

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

So, millennials, what do we know about Betsy DeVos, so far?

We remember she was branded unqualified by many when she was first appointed Education Secretary at the beginning of Trump’s term as President. We remember the uproar that then occurred. We remember her calling for more school choice at the beginning of 2017.

And, we will also remember DeVos as the Education Secretary who decided that policies originally put in place to help prevent sexual assault on college campuses needed “reviewing.”

In 2011, the Obama Administration, as reported by former Vice President Joe Biden during a speech at the University of New Hampshire, revamped the rules that were originally in place as a part of Title IX.

“We are the first administration to make it clear that sexual assault is not just a crime, it can be a violation of a woman’s civil rights,” Biden noted in his speech.

On April 4, 2011 — the same day as Biden’s speech at UNH — the Obama Administration released a statement outlining its new Title IX guidelines.

“If a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects,” the statement read.

Sounds more than reasonable, right? Fighting to protect potential victims of sexual assault (on college campuses, but in the hopes that these 2011 measures could be a catalyst for other settings) was, and is, beyond common sense. No student of any gender should have to live in fear. No person should have to even comprehend preparedness for this grotesque violation of human rights.

But, DeVos took matters into her own hands. Initially, her speech, given at the George Mason University campus in Arlington, Virginia, sounded as though it was in line with the original, common sense mission of the Title IX guidelines that were in place already.

“One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many,” DeVos said in her September 7, 2017 speech.

Wait… one person denied due process? Is she referring to possible perpetrators of sexual assault being denied due process? It turns out that she is. And, later in that same speech, she indicated that “if everything is harassment, then nothing is.”

Yes, potential suspects have been wrongfully accused in sexual assault cases. It’s happened, and it’s happened too many times. And, by legal definition, harassment is “the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The purposes may vary, including racial prejudice, personal malice, an attempt to force someone to quit a job or grant sexual favors, apply illegal pressure to collect a bill, or merely gain sadistic pleasure from making someone fearful or anxious.” Just by virtue of its definition, not “everything is harassment.” 

All of that said, the message that is sent from DeVos’ “review” of Title IX guidelines is that female students’ voices will no longer be heard in the event of a sexual assault. According to a 2015 report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses did not report the incident upon its occurrence. And that was in 2015, when the Title IX guidelines were very much in place. As a result of this message, that rate could potentially increase.

Our leaders should be encouraging students to report incidents, rather than keep them to themselves, wondering if they’ll be believed. The fact that false reporting occurs frequently should not be a basis in which reporting is discouraged altogether. We must continue to keep the very unfortunate reality that sexual assault occurs on college campuses, and in many other places, in the conversation. And we can’t rest until there is no longer a reason to fear.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Betsy DeVos) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Betsy DeVos Confirmed, But Voices Still Heard

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

This story is not for or against Betsy DeVos and will not discuss her politics – we have already discussed all of the Trump Cabinet nominees.

Rather, we’ll discuss the fact that what makes the DeVos appointment confirmation different is what has led up to it.

We’ve heard on and off for weeks about a barrage of names, from former Breitbart Executive Chair Steve Bannon to Jeff Sessions to Neil Gorsuch. And while they’ve all had their fair amount of press and opinions from both sides related to their respective nominations, none have had the press that the DeVos nomination and today’s subsequent confirmation has.

But aside from the press and the storm of social media posts calling for congress to not, in fact, confirm DeVos, we witnessed a number of Washington notables raise their voices against the nomination.

It’s worth noting that this incident was not the first time that Washington notables raised their voices during President Trump’s term (which is, of course, only a little over two weeks old). But instead of a walkout as was staged in the State Department, they went with a filibuster.

Monday, Senate Democrats pledged to stay up all night and hold the floor in protest of the DeVos confirmation. While, according to The Washington Post, they would not be able to prevent the confirmation that would come the next day, the protest shows the type of dedication to a cause and to beliefs that can be admired by millennials and all age groups

While many of us have not been pleased with President Trump’s decisions thus far – we’ve also witnessed a number of movements that showcase both citizens and politicians standing up for what they believe is right (case in point: the Women’s March). I hope that we can continue that trend into the future, and that millennials will continue to make their voices heard — as they did all throughout election season.

Today, Vice President Pence broke the tie with his Senate vote, making the final numbers 51-50 in favor of DeVos. We’re not here to tell you to be in favor or not in favor of that decision. But we are here to tell you that if you were not in favor, don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up the fight for what you believe is right. With enough voices, you can effect change.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.