This would almost be amusing if it weren’t such a serious subject. Still railing against the “campus rape culture” theme, one feminist and social political activist has published a poison pen letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the WaPo this week. Jess Davidson is taking issue with a proposed rule change at the Department of Education which would more strictly define sexual harassment and identify who should receive reports of such crimes. Davidson’s complaint is once again based entirely on the constantly evolving definitions of Title IX and she concludes that DeVos is trying to “sweep rape back under the rug.”
When I was in college, another student sexually assaulted me after an off-campus party that took place just two blocks from the nearest dorm.
Yet if the assault had occurred under a draft proposal from the Education Department, as reported by the New York Times on Aug. 29, my university wouldn’t have been required to investigate and hold my assailant accountable — because the assault didn’t happen on campus property.
That I was sexually assaulted off campus didn’t make me any less traumatized. And it didn’t make my assault any less of a roadblock to my equal access to education. This leaked rule is as dangerous as it is cruel, as are many aspects of the draft proposal.
If implemented, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s drafted rule would deprive the thousands of survivors of sexual assault like me of the right to use the Title IX process to seek justice and healing. At best, DeVos’s drafted rule would discourage students from reporting sexual violence; at worst, it would deny student survivors their civil rights. This would be especially harmful to survivors from currently and historically underserved communities, making the Title IX process even more inaccessible to marginalized students.
Sorry for the lengthy excerpt, but this entire essay is composed of one baffling paragraph after another, each describing something horrible and then completely failing to address the underlying problem. The author goes on at length about how reporting rules would prevent students from going to “trusted teachers, coaches and resident advisers” to report a sexual assault. And it’s all wrapped up with a running theme of how Title IX is “civil rights legislation” which should protect students.
Of course, if you’re able to separate reality from condescending political mantras, you can see how Davidson’s entire premise is flawed and her preferred method of handling such matters actually puts students in more danger, not less, while undermining constitutional rights. The first thing to understand is what Title IX was supposed to be and how it’s been intentionally twisted in the modern era to suit certain political agendas. In case you’ve never looked, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is actually quite short. Here’s the entire passage:
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.
That’s it. That’s the entire thing. It was never supposed to deal with law enforcement issues beyond ensuring there was no discrimination in publicly funded education on the basis of sex. There were schools that absolutely did discriminate against young women in admissions and far more was spent on programs for the boys (most particularly in sports) than for the girls. Title IX was supposed to address that. But today, anything bad that happens to someone, particularly as part of a criminal act, is being interpreted as creating an environment where students are afraid to go to school, making it a Title IX issue. When it comes to rape and sexual assault, the claims are the loudest.
But guess what? The schools aren’t committing the assaults. Nor are teachers, coaches or dorm advisors qualified to investigate crimes. Kangaroo courts composed of university faculty and staff are neither legally empowered nor qualified to mete out justice nor determine guilt or innocence. Even if you believe that there’s a campus rape culture, this is not a Title IX issue. Department of Education guidelines need to be straightened out so the schools can focus on education – certainly without discrimination – and have the police handle the criminals.
Davidson relates the story of how she was sexually assaulted at an off-campus party, which is a tragedy. But she goes on to claim that, “the police could never have put me in separate classes or campus spaces from my rapist. That’s why Title IX exists.”
No, Ms. Davidson. That has nothing to do with Title IX. By your own report, you were raped. And you knew the identity of the perpetrator. The way to deal with that rapist was to put him on trial and send him to prison. Your solution would simply move you around so you wouldn’t be in the same classes with him. Or perhaps to kick him off campus. In other words, as long as you felt more safe, you were fine with setting a known rapist loose on the rest of the young women in the other classes or out in the wider community.
Also, if you’re going to accuse someone of rape, they deserve to have an attorney to defend them against the charges as specified in the constitution. As we’ve seen repeatedly, most campus kangaroo courts offer no such access to legal counsel. Everything about this push to discredit the work going on at the Department of Justice is not only misguided but harmful to at-risk students and undermines fundamental constitutional rights.