The University of Minnesota’s student government hosted a vigil Thursday that offered support to sexual assault survivors and educating students on the details of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s proposed Title IX changes.
These potential legal shifts would change the way sexual assault cases are handled in schools and on college campuses across the country. Since November, more than 71,000 students have sent comments to the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to delay the proposal before the 60-day comment period ends on Jan. 28.
Minnesota Student Association President Simran Mishra said she hopes to give students an opportunity to contribute to the conversation around the Title IX changes. The event aimed to educate students on how to write comments in a way to make the Department of Education more likely to respond.
“That’s kind of [the] plan, to get people who are really passionate about this [and] really want to work around this in the same place,” she said.
The Department of Education is unable to vote on the proposed changes until all constructive comments have been read and addressed.
Freshman Molly Overkamp said she attended the event, hoping to show support to survivors as well as get more information about the Title IX changes that she could pass along to friends in high school and at other universities.
“These changes go against everything the Department of Education stands for. It doesn’t protect students in any way, and frankly I’m tired of presidential administrations backing upper-division university staff over the people that actually utilize the Department of Education’s resources, which are the students,” Overkamp said.
MSA also brought in advocates from the Saint Paul and Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project to take questions about the changes and to speak about the experience of sexual assault victims.
MSA's Sexual Assault Task Force Chair Meara Cline met with the University’s Title IX Director Tina Marisam last semester to discuss the changes and how they would affect University students. These changes were presented by MSA’s government and legislative affairs director Jude Goossens and coordinator Christina Laridaen.
This movement is not unique to the University. MSA has been working with other universities to draft a joint comment and hopefully have a bigger impact on the Board of Education, Cline said.
“Nobody is backing down, especially victim-survivors, especially allies . ... We will never support a policy that re-victimizes those who have already been hurt and ... we will never stop fighting for safe campuses,” she said.