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Monday, October 23, 2017

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Students react to possible rollback of Title IX


“Just to clarify Title IX is not going anywhere. It would take an act of Congress to repeal the law. However, what could potentially change under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is the guidance universities are given from the Department of Education,” said assistant director for sexual violence prevention and education Aneeliese Bustillo | Jordyn Kazmouz/The Cougar

When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced review of the Obama-era sexual assault guidance in early September, students and faculty at the University of Houston expressed worry and fear over the possible implications of a rollback of Title IX.

Title IX, enacted in 1972 to prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of sex, was expanded in 2011 to require universities to address sexual violence, but DeVos cited concerns over the denial of due process to those standing accused as a reason for the review, according to CNN.

Biology freshman Jennifer Ruiz said she would feel unsafe without Title IX’s protections, which include the requirement that universities promptly report any sexual misconduct or discrimination or risk losing federal funding.

“I just don’t see the point in rolling it back because it’s not harming anyone,” Ruiz said. “You make kids feel more safe and (allow) victims to come forward and be protected. However, I don’t think rolling back Title IX will affect the University of Houston as much as other universities.”

In a letter to DeVos mailed on Monday, Student Government Association President Winni Zhang opposed the rollback of Title IX.

“Your painful words brought heartache to many survivors who consistently face a society that defends perpetrators,” Zhang said. “As leaders, we have an obligation to protect survivors and ensure a safe learning environment on our campuses. It’s on us.”

Richard Baker, the assistant vice chancellor of the Office of Equal Opportunity Services, said that Title IX is a gender equality law stating that higher education institutes cannot discriminate based on sex.

“So the idea that we have unequal treatment of women is prohibited by Title IX,” Baker said.

While specific modifications to Title IX have not yet been proposed, many students believe a rollback is possible, and they have considered the potential repercussions, said English freshman Kayla Washington.

“Students should be able to feel comfortable participating in events on campus knowing that their University has their back should such an incident occur,” Washington said. “Since Title IX covers such a broad range on campuses, scaling it back only makes it harder for other circumstances of unequal situations to be handled correctly.”

Since DeVos has not made an announcement regarding specific changes to Title IX, Equal Opportunity Services cannot definitively say how a potential rollback will affect campus life, but Baker said the office has made tremendous progress in making the campus safe over the past few years.

“Over the last six years, we have made tremendous investments,” Baker said. “We have implemented sexual misconduct training programs for students and faculty, and the progress has been tremendous. We intend to make campus a safe place with the many resources we have for students and faculty.”

Some of the on-campus resources include Equal Opportunity Services’s office, the Women and Gender Resource Center’s Sexual Misconduct Support Services and the Wellness Center’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Education.

Six years ago, some of these resources did not exist for students and staff, Baker said.

“We have made many advancements on campus and have invested in the best policy that is fair to all students,” Baker said. “We are welcome to assessing any possible changes that would better the lives of everyone in the community.”

One of the resources available is Salutation, which is the UH System’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Awareness Program. Salutation provides programs for alcohol awareness, students and faculty training and campus presentations to assist parties of sexual misconduct cases.

 

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