Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unexpected meeting with Department of Education

Title IX news usually slows down during the summer with the exception of some annual anniversary coverage in June.
But this summer a core group of college students and recent graduates have continued their activism aimed at making college campuses less sexually dangerous and making more college students aware of their rights to a harassment- and violence-free campus. In addition to work on the Know Your IX campaign, this week a group of activists went to DC with a petition signed by over 100,000 people calling on the Department of Education and OCR to beef up enforcement of Title IX to better protect students from sexual assault. A small group of students rallied outside the Department of Education yelling up to the Secretary Arne Duncan's office through a megaphone and were surprised when Under Secretary Martha Kanter came out to personally accept the boxes of petitions saying that she would deliver that to Secretary Duncan.
Unlike Title IX's application to athletics, there is no universal handy checklist or comprehensive measurement scheme to assess a school's sexual climate. Though there are certainly signposts and other markers such as policies and educational and training programs, evaluation of a school's commitment to ensuring its campus is a safe place is quite subjective. Also, there has not yet been a confluence of negative effects to put some proverbial teeth into enforcement. Though the negative publicity a school receives provides some deterrent, it is both difficult to measure the ramifications of this negativity (students lost, donations lost?) and somewhat hard to believe that people will stop going to schools such as Yale or Dartmouth or Swarthmore even with the increase in the visibility of these issues. Additionally, there have been no set of legal cases resulting in large jury awards to scare schools into compliance as there have been in athletics (i.e., Fresno State. Florida Gulf Coast). While the efforts of the current group of student activists have been impressive and consistent and spread all over the country, other actions/results need to help the issue truly take hold.