OPEN LETTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REGARDING PROPOSED TITLE IX RULES AND REGULATIONS

To the United States Department of Education; Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; and Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus,

We, the undersigned students, faculty, and alumni, are deeply concerned about the Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX. These changes would make our schools less safe for survivors and make it much harder to hold perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence accountable. We write to express our strong opposition to the proposed changes to Title IX.

Sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in our schools and across the country. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college - that amounts to over 3 million college students who will be sexually assaulted this year alone. This violence disproportionately impacts marginalized people: four in ten black women have been subjected to intimate partner violence in their lifetime;[1] one in three native women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime; of Asian and Pacific Islander women, 23% have experienced some form of sexual violence; and more than one in three Latinas (34.4%) will experience interpersonal violence during her lifetime. Furthermore, nearly one in four transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming, or questioning students experience sexual violence during college. We celebrate the presence of each and every one of these people in our communities and affirm their Title IX rights to access their educations. Therefore, we oppose new Title IX rules that would abandon survivors and curtail their civil rights.

Everyone deserves a fair Title IX process. However, the proposed rules will not make Title IX more fair. Instead, they will make it easier for schools to sweep cases of sexual violence under the rug. Despite widely voiced concerns about false accusations of misconduct, studies show that rates of false allegations remain quite low.[2] Furthermore, existing Title IX processes already provide fair and equal representation to accusers and accused. Title IX is designed to provide accommodations to students that the legal system cannot. Wherever it takes place, sexual violence impacts a student’s ability to fully participate in school, and the criminal legal system cannot arrange extensions on homework, excuse absences, or offer other accommodations for student survivors to continue their educations. Proposed changes to Title IX would deter survivors from initiating Title IX processes, leaving them without recourse in a hostile environment. In fact, failure to properly respond to sexual violence often results in survivors dropping out of school entirely.

As a coalition of survivors and allies, and in solidarity with all student survivors, we declare our commitment to upholding robust protections against sexual violence, as well as our expectation that the Department of Education do the same. We understand that there is a formal notice and comment process ongoing, and we are committed to participating in that process as well. We are very concerned that Secretary DeVos and the administration systematically ignored the input of survivors while developing the proposed rules. Moving forward, we call upon the Department of Education to take survivors’ stories and recommendations into consideration before finalizing the proposed Title IX rule. This rule will affect us all, and we will not be silenced.


Letter from Our Harvard Can Do Better

[1] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report,” 2011.[2] Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases. Violence Against Women, 16(12), 1318–1334. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210387747

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