As a teacher, I have the joy to witness my students on their path to college and their careers, all of my students have inspiring goals and dreams and for the majority, college is a part of those dreams. When all of my students envision their college futures, they generate excitement about the “freedom” and experiences that come with it. During my own time in college, however, many young women spoke up about sexual harassment and time and time again, we were disappointed with the administration’s lack of urgency around the matters. Individual students, backed by peers and campus organizations, spoke up about the “mishandling” of such severe issues and for a good reason. One in five women will experience sexual harassment during their time in college.
There are regulations in place that determine how college campuses should handle these issues. However, USA Today published an article outlining the proposed changes and commenting on the reactions from government officials and national organizations aimed at protecting women. DeVos’s plan would narrow the definition for what “sexual harassment” is on campuses by creating three categories:
- “Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”
- “‘Quid pro quo harassment,’ like a school employee ‘conditioning an educational benefit’ on a person’s sexual conduct,”
- “Sexual assault.”
DeVos’s proposal would alter the previous one held under the Obama administration which referred to sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of the sexual nature.” DeVos and the Department of Education have received pushback almost immediately after publishing the proposal. Representative Joe Kennedy III took to Twitter to state that, “No survivor should be cross-examined by his or her accused rapist. Ever. Full stop.” Additionally, the National Women’s Law Center added to the critiques by stating that “Access to education for millions—especially survivors—is on the line.” As it stands, the plan is a proposal and will be open to public comment for 60 days before becoming final. Public institutions of higher education are legally mandated, under Title IX, to prohibit sex discrimination, and we must push for stronger protection of survivors and protection from sexual harassment for all students. We cannot ignore this issue any longer.
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