Student protest set to denounce proposed Title IX changes

Courtesy /

Courtesy /

Shiloh Reynolds

In response to recent proposals from the Department of Education to make changes to Title IX, a student protest is currently scheduled to take place near Grand Valley State University’s Cook Carillon Tower on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposals to Title IX changes include decreasing a university’s liability in the case of off-campus assaults, narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and requiring live hearings with cross-examination.

Senior Maddie Vervaeke originally came up with the idea to hold the protest. She said that after first learning of the proposed changes, she initially tried to keep an unbiased opinion, but after looking further into the changes, she became critical.

“I don’t like to initially let my political views surface, and I hoped that (DeVos) had good intentions, but then I started doing my own research and my opinions changed,” Vervaeke said.

Vervaeke currently serves as President of Its On Us, a student organization intended to educate others on consent, bystander intervention and sexual assault.

She approached GVSU’s Student Senate shortly before winter break with the idea of holding a protest. She said that she was met by strong support from the group.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin said. “Actions speak louder than words, and holding a peaceful protest is a way for campus to recognize how important this is.”

In early December 2018, Jenkin sponsored the passage of a Senate resolution that aims to “show strong dissent towards the proposed Title IX changes… due to the emotional tax placed on survivors that creates an unwelcoming and potentially unsafe environment on campuses further prohibiting students’ abilities to focus and succeed in their education.”

Jenkin, who interns at the university’s Title IX office, said she believed that the proposed changes would be “harmful to students.” Among other items, Jenkin said that the resolution recognizes that a “limited definition (of sexual harassment) objectively discriminates against the transgender community” and “implementing (cross examination)… could have a severe negative impact on the victims/survivors throughout the reporting process due to the high risk of secondary victimization and emotional distress.”

The Department of Education allowed for a 60 day public comment period on the proposed changes to Title IX, which will conclude on Jan. 28. Jenkin said that she plans to submit a copy of the resolution to the Department of Education before this time is up, and hopes that government officials will take the opinion of the GVSU student body into account.

While both Vervaeke and Jenkin said that expected turnout for Wednesday’s protest is still unclear, over 60 people have expressed interest on Facebook. 

“I am just hoping for as many as possible,” Jenkin said. “I would also love if some faculty participated.”

As for the future of Title IX, Vervaeke said that while she is not sure what alternate changes should be made, she said that any changes shouldn’t just be considered from a political perspective.

“(Changes) should keep students’ interests in mind,” Vervaeke said. “Keeping Title IX as it is right now would be a lot better than how they are trying to change it.”