Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ decision to eradicate Obama-era Title IX on Sept. 7 has left Mills students worrying that this change will heavily impact their safety and shield those accused of sexual misconduct.
As reported by NBC, DeVos said that the Obama administration’s Title IX “failed too many students” and announced that she will replace the current legislation “with a workable, effective and fair system.” Despite these claims of a better policy, DeVos did not follow with any specifications for a future replacement.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that says: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This means that if a college or university receiving federal funds ignores a case of sexual harassment or assault in its programs, it can be held legally responsible.
Although DeVos said that “every survivor…must be taken seriously,” and “every student accused…must know that guilt is not predetermined,” the public focused heavily on how this will make sexual assault survivors, and specifically women, more on guard. Despite DeVos’ intentions, Mills first-year Ma’Kaya Washington feels threatened by the decision to end Title IX.
“The end of Title IX is an attack on my womanhood and on my right to an education,” Washington said.
Mills first-year Angel Fabre fears what this change in legislation will mean for sexual assault survivors. In fact, Fabre believes this will psychologically affect those who already struggle with their trauma.
“The ending of Title IX makes me very nervous,” Fabre said, “it helps no one except the predators.”
Many first-years attending Mills expected a statement to be issued by the school since it is a federally funded college. Aviva Wilcox, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, assured that Mills will stay true to long time protocol in cases of sexual harassment and assault on-campus.
“It is worth saying that the Mills College policy is not dependent on federal policy and can still maintain certain protocols,” Wilcox said. “There is still a Title IX policy in the state of California.”
First-year Gwenneth Jergins, feels as though Title IX has already failed students. Despite this, she believes that Title IX at least gave an illusion of repercussions for sexual predators and even that is being taken away.
“The system is already set up so that victims are questioned to the point where they are reliving their assault and cases sometimes take years only for an unjust verdict,” Jergins said.
The Department of Education released a Q-and-A revealing that there will be no fixed time frame under which “a school must complete a Title IX investigation.” The Office for Civil Rights also said it will be up to a school’s “good-faith” to conduct a fair, impartial investigation. This change puts all the power and decision making into the hands of a college or university’s administration to conduct investigations.
CAPS is also worried about what the end of Title IX might mean for students.
“It may lead students who have been victimized to feel like they cannot come forward and feel like their allegations will not be acted on expeditiously,” Wilcox said.
As a first-year, Washington expected more call to action from Mills and feels like the school is not doing enough to protect students.
“In light of their flimsy support for DREAMers, it just feels like the school is not doing anything productive to assure us of all these government changes,” Washington said.
Last semester, Mills students protested the way the administration handled a sexual assault case at the school.
Though President Hillman has already released a statement to all Mills students as to where the school stands with Title IX, it should be reiterated that CAPS is the one place on campus students can go to report a sexual assault and not have that information reported to school officials unless they want that information reported.
Hillman assures that “Mills College is committed to promoting the safety of the Mills community.”