Letter to President Revely: Preserve Title IX protections
Written by Letter to the Editor|
November 6, 2017
Dear President Reveley,
As alumni and current students of the College of William and Mary, we write to urge you to uphold the standards put into place by the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which clarifies academic institutions’ obligations under Title IX to protect students from sexual assault.
We urge you to lead with conscience, to take a stand so that other institutions may follow our example and to publicly declare your decision to uphold and support the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter standards.
Sep. 22, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos withdrew her department’s enforcement of the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. In advance of the notice and comment period, Secretary DeVos issued interim guidance that denies students their right to receive an education free of sexual violence and the hostile environment it creates.
In both her statements and her interim guidance, Secretary DeVos continuously emphasizes protection of accused students, and her interim guidance chiefly considers only accused students’ rights to education. Title IX is not intended to protect only students accused of sexual misconduct. Title IX protects students from sexual discrimination, harassment and violence.
We firmly believe in the importance of fair, equitable and impartial sexual misconduct investigations and adjudications, both for students reporting sexual assault and students accused of perpetrating sexual assault. However, it is also the right of survivors, students and the entire William and Mary community to live, learn and work in a setting free of hostility and sexual violence.
The changes in Secretary DeVos’ interim guidance skew in favor of students accused of sexual misconduct and do not provide a prompt, fair and equitable process for survivors. For example, Secretary DeVos’ interim guidance allows institutions to deny survivors their right to appeal, but requires that institutions allow accused students to appeal findings and disciplinary decisions. We fear that Secretary DeVos’ new interim guidance will discourage and deter survivors from reporting sexual assault, as well as from receiving information on the adjudication process and support services to which they are entitled.
Secretary DeVos’ interim measures will prevent survivors who report sexual assault from receiving a prompt, fair and equitable investigation, will re-traumatize reporting survivors and will deprive them the right to continue their education in a safe campus environment free from sexual violence and hostility.
Secretary DeVos’ issuance of interim guidance does not change the fact that Title IX as well as the clarifying guidance of the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter and the 2014 Question and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence document remain law under the Title IX implementing regulation 34 CFR 106. William and Mary has both a legal and a moral obligation to protect all members of the Tribe from sexual assault on campus.
No student should be made to fear that they will be stuck in a hostile learning environment, where only perpetrators have the right to appeal disciplinary decisions and where institutions may use the most stringent standard of evidence.
It is no secret that, like at every other academic institution, sexual assault is far too prevalent at William and Mary. In William and Mary’s Sexual Misconduct Campus Climate Assessment, 46 percent of the students who responded to the survey in 2014 reported experiencing some form of sexual misconduct.
Under your leadership, William and Mary has made excellent progress in sexual assault prevention and support services for survivors. You established the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment. Campus climate surveys were distributed to students so that William and Mary can better prevent campus sexual assault and direct services where they are needed. Survivors now have access to the Haven, a confidential and inclusive center where survivors of sexual violence may receive resources, guidance and support.
William and Mary also established a student-led Survivor Support Group, providing survivors a safe and supportive place to share their experiences. Overall, William and Mary’s sexual misconduct policies are now more accessible, and survivors’ reporting options and available support services are publicized widely.
William and Mary has made strides in preventing sexual assault, in implementing clear, fair and equitable disciplinary procedures and in supporting survivors of campus sexual assault. Now is not the time to move backwards.
You yourself [Revely] wrote that “[this] job is not someone else’s to do; it’s for each of us and all of us, students, faculty and staff.”We must continue to enforce the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter guidelines and be a model university, an example that other universities follow.
We urge you to continue your commitment to survivors and the prevention of sexual assault at William and Mary. Publicly state your continued commitment to uphold the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter guidelines.
All members of the Tribe deserve to receive an education free from the hostile environment created by sex discrimination and sexual violence.
66 students, alumni, and student organizations
Sara Krauss, Law School 2017
Speak Up Speak Loud
Mikayla Pentecost, Law School 2017
Katherine Brooke Shaffer, Law School 2017
Laura Worden, Law School 2017
Sara Miller, Law School 2018
Taylor Trenchard, Law School 2017
Claire Lashley, Law School 2017
Darcee Case, Law School 2018
Emily Fornshell, Law School 2019
Women’s Law Society
Kristi Breyfogle, Law School 2018
Nathaniel Ralstin, Law School 2016
Vanessa Riley, Law School 2017
Margaret Burnside, Law School 2017
Law School Honor Council Associate Chair
Danielle Stubbs, Undergraduate Alumna and School of Education Student Graduate Assistant in Student Accessibility Services Office
Kristel Tupja, Law School 2017
Sarah Edwards, Law School 2017
Elizabeth Rademacher, Law School 2016
Carlton Ray Smith, Undergraduate 2015 and School of Education 2017 Amelia Seagle, School of Education 2018 Briana Legerlotz, School of Education 2017
Renuka Santhanagopalan, Law School 2018
Ashley Gilkerson, Law School 2017
Benjamin Daily, Law School 2018
Speak Up Speak Loud Executive Director
Elizabeth Buner, Law School 2016
Rachel Sollecito, Law School 2017
Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Teresa Donaldson, Law School 2017
Stephanie Lauterbach, Undergraduate 2016 and Law School 2019
Brendan McDonald, Undergraduate 2018
Lauren Oberheim, Law School 2019
Journal of Women and the Law, 2L Article Editor
Rachel Bogdan, Law School 2018
Speak Up Speak Loud
Allison Kenne Prout, Law School 2017
Speak Up Speak Loud
Alana Biltucci, Law School 2015
Daniel Sinclair, Law School 2018
William & Mary Law Review
Jessica Lunf, Law School 2017
Ashley Johnson, Law School 2016
Graduate Council President, 2015-2016
Sarah Elizabeth Lambert, Law School 2014
Angela Evanowski, Law School 2017
Taylor Treece, Law School 2018
Megan Watson, Law School 2018
Christopher Lee Rollins, Undergraduate 2008 and Law School 2015 Rina Gandhi, Law School 2014
Jacqueline Therese Sandler, Law School 2014
Jacob Testa, Law School 2015
Austin Buckley, Law School 2017
Kaitlyn O’Connor, Law School 2017
Sylvia Donahoo, Law School 2019
Michelle A. Weinbaum, Law School 2017
Lila Inman, Law School 2017
Abigail Shen, Law School 2017
Trevor Vincent, Law School 2017
Amelia Vance, Law School 2013
Alexander Reidell, Law School 2015
George Wythe Society
Election Law Society
Callie Carnemark, Law School 2015
Women’s Law Society President 2013-2014
Public Service Fund – Funding Chair, 2013-2015
Jane Brittan, Law School 2016
Michelle Monfiletto, Law School 2017
Emily Lippolis, Law School 2014
Kristen French, Law School 2015
Jennifer Quezada, Law School 2018
Tasha Thompson, Law School 2017
Abbey Childs, Undergraduate 2017
Randolph Todd Critzer Jr., Law School 2017
Kelsey Christensen, Law School 2017
Kimberly Bond, Undergraduate 2015