Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, said during her Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 17 she looks forward to understanding the “range of opinions” around Title IX rules for colleges addressing sexual assault on campus. While DeVos agreed with Sen. Bob Casey (D.-Penn.) that “sexual assault in any form or any place is a problem,” she stopped short of saying whether she would uphold 2011 rules laid out in the Office for Civil Right’s Dear Colleague Letter, which requires any schools receiving federal funding to have procedures in place and take immediate action on incidents of sexual violence, harassment, or discrimination.
Baylor University’s former Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford — who maintained the post during the recent campus sexual assault crisis that resulted in the ouster of president Ken Starr, football coach Art Briles, and athletic director Ian McCaw — resigned earlier this week after filing complaint against the school and refusing to sign a confidentiality agreement. Crawford's resignation came the same day two more women joined a class-action lawsuit against the school for failing to adequately address sexual assault allegations, bringing the total number plaintiffs to eight.
A bill wending its way through the California Legislature would limit religious colleges’ ability to claim an exemption from federal Title IX regulations that bar discrimination against LGBT students and faculty.
Only schools that prepare students for pastoral ministry would be allowed the religious exemption under California Senate Bill 1146 — which passed the state Senate in May and is scheduled for a hearing in the state Assembly on June 30.
And my students are lucky. They have a college chaplain who, by virtue of my ordination as a Christian minister and my role as a pastoral care provider, can offer them the opportunity to tell their story on their terms. I provide them support and a safe place as they re-familiarize themselves with their own life and help them regain a sense of their own agency.
As I hold my college students and their stories in prayer, I often fight my own urge to ask them to report. The incredible injustice of rape makes me livid and I want so badly for my students to receive some sort of vindication for the wrong done to them. I try to remember that the only person capable of assessing what a victim needs is the victim herself. Some are ready to walk into the onslaught of the justice system in the hope of receiving some sort of public vindication. Most are not.
On Feb. 9, the day after more than 200 Baylor students, alumni, faculty, and staff gathered in front of university President Ken Starr’s campus residence for a candlelight vigil honoring the community’s sexual assault survivors, Starr released a statement on the school’s website saying, “We hear you loud and clear.”
Starr was not present for the vigil — according to an inquiry to the media communications office, he was in Washington, D.C., on university business.
His brief statement read: “You want us to continue to improve. And you want definitive, responsible actions after we receive the insights and recommendations from Pepper Hamilton. You have my word on both.”
Students at Biola University and Oklahoma Baptist University assembled Feb. 9 in order to protest their colleges’ requests to be exempt from Title IX requirements that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As many as 60 Christian schools have submitted similar requests since 2014, when the Justice Department announced that Title IX protections extended to transgender students.
A group of Baylor University students and alumni will gather for a candlelight vigil outside university President Ken Starr’s home on Feb. 8 in an effort to urge changes to how the school handles sexual assault.
The vigil is being organized by Stefanie Mundhenk, a recent graduate who described her own experience through the school’s Title IX process in her personal blog. Mundhenk’s account — coupled with a recent ESPN report accusing the school of mishandling cases of sexual assault by Baylor football players, and subsequent CBS Sports commentary calling on President Ken Starr to “stop stonewalling” about the rape cases — sparked outrage among Baylor alumni, many of whom responded in an open letter to the university administration over the weekend. Since the open letter was shared on Saturday, the list of signatories has risen from 50 to more than 1,300.
An influx of requests from Christian universities for the right to discriminate on the basis of gender identity have flooded the Department of Education. As many as sixty Christian schools have submitted requests for Title IX waivers since 2014, when the Department of Education announced their protections were inclusive of transgender students. Before this clarification, only a handful of universities had asked for such waivers in the 40-plus years since Title IX was established in 1972. But the decision to extend protections to transgender students has prompted dozens of Christian schools request these waivers.
Today Vice President Joe Biden announced a series of new initiatives aimed at addressing sexual violence on college campuses and launched NotAlone.gov — a website that pools campus reporting data and points both students and school officials to sexual assault resources.
The administration is also releasing the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which was established in January.
Under Title IX, college campuses that receive federal funding are already required to take steps to prevent sexual assault on campus and respond promptly when sexual assault is reported. Further, the Clery Act requires those that receive funding to report their crime statistics and provide policies for prevention. The website NotAlone.gov will be a central repository for these reports and clarify for students their rights under the Clery Act and Title IX.
What is unclear, however, is what has changed for Christian college campuses and other private institutions.