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Tulane and Title IX

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Tulane University

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Tulane and Title IX

An act of power, not passion

10.4.17

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” In 2011, Barack Obama sent a letter to universities creating guidelines that specified sexual assault and gender based violence as forms of sex discrimination. Obama laid out the responsibilities of universities to actively combat sexual harassment of and by their students.
Betsy DeVos is the current Secretary of the Department of Education under President Trump. Last week, she officially withdrew Obama’s Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence on the premise that “the rights of accused students have too often been ignored.” But the reality is that the rights of sexual assault survivors have too often been ignored despite the fact that rape allegations have the same false reporting rate as every other crime: 2%-8%.

DeVos has championed her passion for due process as her reasoning for rescinding the Dear Colleague Letter. More than 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted by the time she graduates college. Yet most of these women won’t press charges because they are terrified they won’t be believed. While the prosecutorial process should be protected heavily, this act of withdrawing the Dear Colleague Letter makes the view of DeVos perfectly, painfully clear:

DeVos is not only unconcerned with the victim-blaming culture surrounding sexual assault, but she is willing to exacerbate the issue in order to protect those that already hold massive cultural and political power.
To make matters worse, we have a Tulane President who is too ambiguous about sexual assault. Haley Riemer, Co-President of the Feminist Alliance of Students at Tulane (FAST), received the recent email about drinking culture from President Fitts in which Fitts “slipped in sexual assault, leaving room for the conclusion that sexual assault only happens when people are drunk. The university is clearly more concerned with how our school is seen in regards to drinking [than sexual assault].” In his email, Fitts said that “the use of drugs and alcohol...makes our students much more likely to be vulnerable to crimes and more likely to commit crimes, including sexual assault.”

While it is true that alcohol use increases the risk of sexual assault, Tulane should not send the message that sexual assault is a result of our excessive drinking culture. Our drinking culture did not create our rape culture. Rape culture is created by blaming everyone and everything except the perpetrator when a rape occurs. That includes blaming the clothes someone was wearing or how much alcohol was involved. Someone does not commit sexual assault because they had too much to drink. Someone commits sexual assault because they either don’t care about consent or they don’t understand consent.

Tulane students deserve to know how they are or are not being protected under university policy and/or federal law. Why did the administration not update students the same day as the Dear Colleague Letter was withdrawn?
We have a Title IX office that is not reaching students. Too many students at Tulane don't even know what Title IX is. The office has an obligation to protect the rights of students on campus, but there can’t be a silence, a stigma.

Title IX needs to be a presence on campus so that people know their rights and their resources.

It is important to remember that most sexual assault doesn’t even happen on college campuses. It happens to people who don’t have the privileges of a school publication or a Title IX office. The Dear Colleague Letter was an attempt to protect a small portion of those affected by sexual assault, but even that was seen as too much change.

Rape is a crime of power, not passion. The withdrawal of the Dear Colleague Letter was an act of power, not passion.

This article was edited and modified on 10/9/17.