Students in Michigan are responding to a Department of Education announcement last week suggesting the department will change how sexual assault is handled on college campuses.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Thursday Obama administration Title IX policies “weaponized” the Office for Civil Rights to “work against schools and against students.” She said schools were “terrified” and that the rights of students accused of sexual assault had been weakened.
But sexual assault and student activists say DeVos is protecting those accused of sexual assault and university bureaucracies over the rights of victims.
Fiana Arbab is a board member of the Michigan Student Power Network. She said student activists are calling on state legislators to put pressure on DeVos and on universities in the state.
“There are already several state legislators that have been talking about this – and not all of them are female,” Arbab said.
Arbab noted that Governor Snyder and First Lady Sue Snyder have been outspoken about sexual assault. Sue Snyder’s campaign to end sexual assault on campus hosts its third annual summit later this month.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden encouraged student activists to oppose DeVos’ plan to change Title IX policies. Biden held a national organizing call with students Friday.
Arbab said Biden encouraged student activists to “shame” university leaders into doing what’s right for students.
“He used the word shame them,” Arbab said. “But I think ultimately what that means is put social and societal pressure on these public figures to ensure that they truly do have the students’ interests in mind.”
DeVos says the Department of Education is seeking feedback from the public as it works to replace the current approach with “a workable…effective and fair system.”