DeVos to Rewrite Sexual Harassment Guidelines

Written by: The Xavierite Editorial Board

September 13th, 2017


Education Sec. Betsy DeVos listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a strategic and policy discussion with CEOs in the State Department Library in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 11, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Elisabeth Dee “Betsy” DeVos is a name that everyone in the American education system – students, teachers, and administrators alike – has been made all too familiar with ever since her commencement as Secretary of Education in President Trump’s administration.

The nation’s response to DeVos’s initiation as Secretary of Education varied from being both positive and negative, though we note that the overwhelming response to DeVos’s position has heavily leaned toward the negative side of the spectrum.

Whether you choose to focus on the highs or lows of her actions in office, DeVos is a presence that us college students have keenly been aware of over the last few months.

This past Thursday, DeVos announced that the department will be reviewing and rewriting the guidelines for campus sexual assault that the Obama administration had laid out.

According to DeVos, this is to ensure that there are less victims that suffer from lack of due progress during investigations of campus sexual assault and harassment charges, and she has stated that they have already begun the process of rescinding the Obama-era guidelines. DeVos also stated that the department will be taking input from the public into consideration when rewriting the guidelines.

Clearly, this decision had the potential to cause a stir in the population, and create a stir it did. DeVos’s decision was both heavily criticized and cautiously praised for its intentions by many voices in social media and in politics.

What does this mean for us? First and foremost – and most obviously – we are students of a college campus. Second, Saint Xavier University’s Mercy values are in accordance with Title IX, which is what would be affected with the revision of these guidelines, and the university holds a strict no-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual violence of any kind on campus.

The Xavierite staff thinks that the topic of sexual assault and harassment is one that should be taken seriously, and should be treated with the utmost care when teaching future students about it.

We note that the Obama-era guidelines had their flaws and a certain reformation may have been necessary, but also are extremely wary of the fact that DeVos has no clear plan of what to include in her revision.

What can be done to raise awareness of this ongoing issue, and what can happen to reduce the occurrence of it happening on our campus?

Saint Xavier has required all first-year students to complete “Every Choice Matters,” an online violence prevention program that informs students about topics such as consent, sexual assault, and bystander intervention. Paying attention and taking those lessons into account in real life can go a long way.

“The Hook-Up” and “Sex Signals” were events that Transitions students were required to attend; bringing those programs back for a more frequent circuit would help students learn more in-depth information about the effects of sexual violence and our duty as bystanders if we see it happen.

Additionally, Saint Xavier University has an RSO called It’s On Us, an organization focused on changing the culture surrounding sexual violence through education, as well as providing surviving members of sexual assault a safe zone.

The Xavierite staff believes that, in response to DeVos’s decision, education among peers, in regards to campus sexual assault, would be immensely beneficial.

This may not be an easy topic to talk about, or to even think about, but the Xavierite staff thinks that it is necessary to be made aware of what is happening and to keep ourselves as informed as possible.

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