In September 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back guidance under Title IX regarding standards for colleges to prevent, respond to and investigate incidents of sexual assault on campus. The Department of Education has issued interim guidance, pending a public notice and comment period. Jenn Brown, of The United State of Women, discusses the roll back and encourages public awareness of the upcoming notice and comment period to assure that all voices are heard.
Traynham: In 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back guidance issued by President Obama´s administration that some argue strengthen the rights of college students who experience sexual assault. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me to raise awareness on this topic and the notice-and-comment period is Jenn Brown with United State of Women. Jenn, welcome to the program.
Brown: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Traynham: So, let´s talk for a few moments about specifically what President Obama did a few years ago and what Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education under President Trump, rescinded.
Brown: Yeah, so we´re talking about Title IX, which was a piece of legislation passed by Congress that essentially prohibits discrimination in public education, and then from there, it went to to the Department of Education to interpret the laws. Under the Obama administration, they set up a series of guidelines for colleges and universities who are facing an epidemic of sexual assault -- one in four women are assaulted while in college, that told them what they needed to do as a public institution to protect the women on their campus and then, if something does happen, how to support them afterwards.
Traynham: Okay, so that´s what President Obama did, presumably right before he left office. Then we have President Trump´s inauguration, and we have Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education. What did she do?
Brown: So she rescinded that guidance.
Traynham: So rolled back?
Brown: Rolled it back and issued sort of temporary guidance that really did not protect young women at all, but we hope that in March, she will open this decision up for public-comment period, giving us the chance to express our fears.
Traynham: And to be fair to the conversation -- obviously, I know this is a very emotional and controversial topic -- Secretary DeVos said the Obama administration did not do this the right way in terms of the public-comment period. Just saying what she said. But what does she mean by that?
Brown: You know, I think that what I´m most concerned about right now is that she actually does open this up and give us a chance to have our voices heard on it, and I think this issue is so serious and so prevalent in this moment of time that we´re in right now, where women are having their voices heard. I want to make sure that she hears from us.
Traynham: Well, Jenn, to that point, how do you make sure that she, meaning Secretary DeVos, and her staff hear from you and your colleagues all across the country?
Brown: So the Department of Education is going to be opening up a website where you can submit directly to them, so what we´re asking everyone -- everyone who posted with the #MeToo hashtag or know someone who did --
Traynham: And it can be male or female.
Brown: Male or female.
Traynham: It doesn´t matter.
Brown: We want everyone. We actually think it´s really important that men play a role in stepping up and helping this, and basically, what we want them to say to the Secretary is that we want young women to have protections on college campuses and we think that it´s an essential part of Title IX.
Traynham: You know, Jenn, let me just say this. I appreciate your fairness in this because you artfully said something that I think is very important. You weren´t emotional with respect to what Secretary DeVos may or may not have done. You´re trying to pivot to a solution.
Traynham: And trying to make sure -- these are my words, not yours -- that women and men on college campuses -- make sure that their voices are heard.
Brown: That´s exactly right.
Traynham: And my next question for you, Jenn, in about a minute or so we have left, what about parents? What about teachers? What about other people? Should they be involved in this movement, as well?
Brown: Yeah. We really believe -- the United State of Women has partnered with It´s On Us, which is a campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses, so we believe, whether you´re working on gender equality in the workplace or you´re a parent or you´re a teacher or you´re a man or a woman or however you identify, that we all have to play a role in ending this assault against young women on college campuses.
Traynham: This will sound strange to say, Jenn Brown, with United State of Women, Is it part of your goal, part of your mission to be out of business where you don´t have to have the sexual-assault stories that are unfortunately being told over and over and over again?
Brown: That is 100% right. I will be more than happy to give up my job if it means that no young woman on a college campus is sexually assaulted.
Traynham: Jenn Brown, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Brown: Thank you.
Traynham: And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham. Have a great day.