The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and the Title IX Project held a presentation Friday at the SAPAC Office to educate and mobilize students and faculty to provide public input on the new Title IX regulations proposed by the Trump administration.
The Title IX Project is a research project at the University, started in Fall 2014, in which graduate and undergraduate student researchers analyze at how universities across the country are responding to and interpreting Title IX policies. The presentation was delivered to inform the audience of the opportunity to leave comments for the Department of Education and the potential consequences of legalizing the new proposals.
Currently, the Department of Education is considering public input on these regulations in what is called a “notice and comment period.” The Department of Education is required to respond to every comment. Well-informed and data-driven comments were encouraged by Kamaria Porter, Title IX graduate research supervisor and doctoral candidate in Higher Education, who helped lead the presentation. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 comments submitted.
The Title IX Project research predicts passing all new regulations would have a negative effect on survivors’ reporting ability and psychological health. Porter started her presentation by highlighting the protective regulation rollbacks in the new proposals of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Porter touched on was the inability for student survivors to report off-campus incidents.
“One of the first issues is changing what can be investigated,” Porter said. “Currently any incident that occurs on-campus or off-campus amongst students that attend the University can be reported and investigated.”
According to the 2015 University of Michigan Climate Survey, undergraduate students reported 79.6 percent of sexual misconduct did not occur on campus and graduate students reported 94.6 percent of misconduct did not occur on campus.
Other topics the presentation covered included the Trump administration removal of Title IX’s protection of transgender students, a stricter definition of what is required to be investigated and a required cross-examination of the accuser and accused. Porter said she was concerned the cross-examination would become the most important piece of the investigation when determining the case’s decision.
“So, cross-examination becomes the key piece of consideration in the case, and that is dramatically different from what is done now,” Porter said.
LSA senior Kiki Martin has been working on the Title IX Project since May 2017 and explained how victim blaming is currently one of the most pervasive issues on college campuses. The Title IX Project claims victim-blaming language occurs in the new regulations.
“Reporting sexual assault can already be a traumatic experience, where survivors have to relive and retell their experience,” Martin said. “So often, when survivors get the courage to come forward, they are told they are lying, asked how much they had to drink, what they were wearing, which as we know are not actual factors of sexual assault.”
SAPAC Associate Director Anne Huhman encouraged students and faculty to write letters to the Department of Education. She emphasized how a single comment can make a drastic change in laws affecting all students.
“One person can make a difference. It’s easy to think that you won’t, but everyone’s voice matters,” Huhman said. “We need to share this knowledge with the people at the Department of Education who can make tangible change, and by doing this we are bringing power to the masses and allowing all identities to be heard.”