Activists against campus sexual assault are waging a social media campaign to pressure President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary to support enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination.
Using the hashtag #DearBetsy, women and activist groups have posted videos and messages to Betsy DeVos, the nominee whose confirmation hearing before the Senate is scheduled for Jan. 17.
Two groups, End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX, are leading the push. They were founded by UNC graduates Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, who were featured in a documentary about campus sexual assault and who co-edited a book on the issue called “We Believe You.” They also filed federal complaints against UNC in 2013, charging that the university mishandled sexual assault cases and underreported crime statistics.
“We want to plant the seed for her to think about these issues and to be affirming and supportive of enforcement of Title IX,” said Colleen Daly, a 2013 UNC graduate from Asheville and media and strategic communications director for End Rape on Campus.
Sofie Karasek posted a video saying she was sexually assaulted while a student at the University of California. “#DearBetsy,” she wrote on Twitter. “I was sexually assaulted by a serial assailant. He graduated early from college & then started at Harvard Law. Enforce Title IX.”
Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the education department has issued stricter guidance to colleges on how to deal with issues of sexual violence and discrimination based on gender and gender identity. The education department’s Office for Civil Rights has launched investigations into more than 200 colleges and universities whose students reported what they said were violations of Title IX. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also were behind a campaign called “It’s On Us” to bring awareness to prevention of sexual violence.
Activists fear that a Trump administration will abandon the enforcement efforts, setting back attempts to fight sexual violence on campus.
DeVos has not talked publicly about her views on Title IX enforcement, but Republican lawmakers have argued that the current administration has gone too far, relaxing the burden of proof to unfairly tilt the scales against those accused in sexual assaults. Some of Trump’s policy advisers have suggested doing away with the education department’s Office for Civil Rights and folding it into the federal justice department.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina recommended that the 2011 federal guidelines to universities on sexual assault be dropped because they “deny the often-innocent accused basic due process rights,” USA Today reported.
Clark said the campaign is aimed at DeVos, but also at the public.
“Title IX is something that impacts every single student in this country,” she said. “All this work is going to continue, it’s just a matter of what it’s going to look like under a new president.”