In response to the newly proposed federal Title IX regulations, student organizers held a panel discussion to spread awareness about the changes to the legislation—which outline a narrower definition of sexual harassment and prioritize the rights of the accused—and explained how students can protest them at a workshop on Thursday.
Hosted by the Coalition Against Sexual Violence and the Residence Hall Leadership Organization in collaboration with NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, the event was held in the midst of the regulations’ notice-and-comment period, a time that allows for people to give feedback and offer changes to the regulations before they become law.
The period, which lasts 60 days, ends on Jan. 30. As of Jan. 24, 71,629 comments have been submitted.
The new regulations define harassment as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.” In comparison, the Obama administration defined harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”
Additionally, under these new regulations, schools would not be required to investigate assaults that occur off campus, and schools are only required to investigate complaints made to Title IX coordinators or another high-ranking university official, rather than to a residential advisor or faculty member.
In response to the proposed changes, the University released a statement last November maintaining that it would continue to support students in reporting incidents of misconduct.
At the event, Senior Campus Sexual Assault Coordinator for NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Jeenie Yoon, led the discussion and helped explain the implications of the adjustments being made to current Title IX legislation. She advised students interested in protesting the legislation to focus their activist efforts on one or two of the rules that most concerned them, rather than trying protest the legislation as a whole.
“It can be a lot of work to put together [a] comment and we would rather have one really well-drafted comment, well-cited comment,” Yoon said. Additionally, Yoon advised that students cite statistical evidence or personal experience when drafting a comment because those that are similar in content may be filtered out.
Students attending the event also noted dissatisfaction with the proposed legislation.
“As a student who’s been working in the sexual violence related field for some time, I find these regulations really concerning,” Evelyn Milford said, a student at Columbia School of Social Work who is also a policy intern at NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
Speaking as a survivor, Milford cited concern over the impact that loosening these regulations could have on survivors who choose to go through the process of reporting harassment or assault. “Had these regulations been in place when I was on campus and trying to go through processes myself, it would’ve made things nearly impossible to continue with my education and I wouldn’t be in graduate school,” Milford said.
Following the event, CASV condemned the proposed changes to Title IX regulations in a statement posted to their Facebook page calling students to take action in protest of the propositions.