Title Mine and WUPPGA to host letter-writing campaign
Title Mine and WU Planned Parenthood Generation Action will host a “Comment-Writing Party” in response to the Department of Education’s recently proposed Title IX regulations in the Danforth University Center at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7.
The event will begin with speeches from Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Professors Jami Ake, Rebecca Wanzo and Social Work Professor Tonya Edmond, followed by a legal presentation by the Title IX office. KnowYourIX representative Mina Aria will conclude the educational portion of the event before attendees will write their own comments.
According to Title Mine organizer junior Daria Locher, Title Mine began discussions for the event months ago but was waiting for the U.S. Department of Education to announce the release date of the new regulations.
“We knew that we wanted to do something in response to the new regulations, but it was supposed to be released months ago; so, it was basically just a waiting game of when DeVos was going to release it,” Locher said.
Locher and Title Mine organizer Luka Cai worked on a tight schedule to plan their event after learning of Thursday’s release date.
“We had 10 days to plan for this event, and because of that, we had to scramble and collect a lot of institutional resources and reach out for more institutional support as an unfunded, non-SU recognized student group,” Cai said. “We reached out to LIVE [Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education] and PPGA for support. And PPGA is now officially co-organizing the event with us.”
The event will be supported by the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center, the Title IX office, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), the Gephardt Institute and Campus Life.
Title Mine also reached out to KnowYourIX, an advocacy group that supports and educates students about Title IX. Cai emphasized the importance of having a Title IX expert present for any questions that attendees may have.
“We have always had a great working relationship with Mina Aria, who is the only local KnowYourIX organizer,” Cai said. “She’s come to talk to us about Title IX regulations and conducted KnowYourIX trainings before; so, she was somebody we could reach out to on short notice.”
Cai is worried about the new limitations implied by DeVos’s changes to Title IX regulations, specifically the lack of responsibility that universities will have in regards to off-campus incidents.
“One of the biggest things that I am troubled about is the change that makes it such that a school only needs to respond to sexual harassment that occurs within the school program or activity and that is on campus. I think at Wash. U. in particular, given the alcohol policies that are pushing a lot of frat parties off-campus, those two policies are going to intersect to put a lot of students at risk,” Cai said. “[According to the proposed regulations], whatever happens off-campus is no longer required to be adjudicated by the university.”
Locher noted the new regulations attempt to categorize sexual assault as a criminal offense that should be handled by law enforcement.
“I understand that with these rules she’s basically trying to make it so difficult and so traumatic to go through the Title IX process in order that people actually go to law enforcement,” Locher said. “The concept is that Title IX should not cover sexual assault because that’s a criminal offense and with other things that might be infringing upon a student’s education.”
Cai emphasized that Title Mine’s strength comes from students’ solidarity and conversation with other students.
“That’s what happened with the rally; that’s what we saw happen at the end of the semester action last semester, and I think this is a continuation of that strategy,” Cai said. “We want people [to] listen first-hand from some of the people who know the policy most intimately and what the potential implications of the new policies are going to be. And then we want people to be as actively involved as possible and asking questions, getting the information and feeling empowered to write comments during the comment period so the federal government…will know the full extent of student responses to these regulations.”
Locher said that she is interested to see who shows up to the event on Friday.
“We’re definitely asking for a huge commitment from people,” Locher said. “Not only the time commitment, but we are asking people to, at this point in the semester, sit down and stop studying and work on legal jargon. We were tentatively saying 40 to 70. I’m hoping that’s going to be closer to 70.”
In addition to the letter writing campaign, Locher has begun a chapter of the Magnify Your Voice, a project created by Washington University professor of political science Betsy Sinclair aimed at helping to improve accessibility for students to become more informed about the political and legislative process.
“It’s something that she’s been working towards because basically she found out that a lot of people, especially in St. Louis, were becoming disillusioned with the political and legislative process,” Locher said. “Professor Sinclair created Magnify Your Voice to create civic engagement at the grassroots level [and] facilitate it to make it easier. I created the Magnify Your Voice project to basically reach out to people in the community who might not otherwise see our programming because it’s mostly directed at Wash. U. students because that’s where our realm of access is. It is all over the country, but it’s centered in St. Louis.”
Title Mine organizer sophomore Candace Hayes is hopeful that students continue writing comments after the fall semester ends.
“I hope that a lot of people take the passion home with them and continue to write comments over winter break themselves and also encourage those in their networks at home to write comments because it’s so integral that we get as many strong comments written as possible,” Hayes said. “The Department of Education is legally required to review every single comment, and it would be just so incredibly powerful if we could maximize the amount of comments that they have to review.”
Cai hopes that the event will encourage as many students as possible to become engaged in Title IX reform.
“I think the best case scenario is that we get as many comments as possible submitted, but even if people just have a draft of the comment or they’ve just come to learn more about Title IX process and feel empowered to be engaged in this issue in the future…I think that will be a win,” Cai said. “I would say my goals are to get people more involved in the issue and to get people to feel like they can do something about it.”