Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump Education Department are working on changing how colleges and universities handle sexual assault and harassment—specifically, they’re trying to make the rules more friendly to rapists and harassers and less supportive of victims. The push to change the Title IX guidelines is in its public comment period and, Madison Pauly reports for Mother Jones, the comments aren’t going the Trump administration’s way.
In over 54,453 comments, survivors are speaking out, telling their stories and sharply questioning specific parts of the proposed rules. For instance, DeVos wants to change the definition of sexual harassment from “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal access to the [school’s] education program or activity.” It’s not enough that harassment be sexual and unwelcome; it has to actually prevent the victim from getting an education. But what if, as one survivor wrote, “Despite my attacks, and the depression and anxiety that followed, I was still able to force myself to go to class and try my best”? “Survivors shouldn’t be punished for their resilience and bravery,” she continued.” But that’s just what DeVos wants to do.
Activists are seeking to flood the Education Department with more comments before the comment period ends on Jan. 28. To do that, they’re emphasizing paper comments rather than online ones, to force individual rather than computer-generated responses, possibly laying the groundwork for a lawsuit. Betsy DeVos and Team Trump want to give rapists a free pass, but they’re going to face a fight over it.