Public education defenders have railed against billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos since President-elect Donald Trump announced her as his secretary of education pick in November. Now, campus sexual assault survivors and their allies are voicing their concerns over the nomination.
The #DearBetsy hashtag took over Twitter on Monday as part of a campaign urging DeVos to uphold and protect campus sexual assault guidelines laid out by Title IX. The federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education and dictates the standard of evidence required when universities investigate campus sexual assault reports.
Under Title IX, campus rape investigations require a preponderance of evidence to find someone responsible for sexual assault, meaning evidence suggests it’s more likely than not the accused is guilty ― in criminal cases, there is a higher standard: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX, two organizations focused on combatting campus sexual assault, started the social media campaign on Wednesday. Among other things, it calls for DeVos to ensure that preponderance of evidence remains the standard of proof in campus sexual assault cases and urges her to protect transgender students’ rights under Title IX.
“In her position, DeVos will have the power to enforce these Title IX protections and it’s up to us to ensure that she does,” the group shared on its website.
While DeVos hasn’t specifically addressed Title IX, her controversial track record (including her staunch support for charter school vouchers and her many conflicts of interest) have some assault survivors and advocates concerned.
“The goal is for her to commit during her hearing to upholding these really important provisions for students,” Sofie Karasek, an End Rape On Campus co-founder, told BuzzFeed News.
Trump’s own position on Title IX is unclear, though he has previously hinted at greatly scaling back the Department of Education’s scope. Title IX advocates are hoping to prevent the federal campus rape rules from becoming the latest target in the administration’s crosshairs.
In light of DeVos’ upcoming confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Title IX supporters made their voices heard on Twitter:
Many of Trump’s Republican colleagues are fighting to scale back Title IX enforcement, claiming the interpretation of the law under President Barack Obama “contravenes our country’s legal traditions.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is urging Trump to repeal Title IX provisions on campus rape investigations to protect what he called the “oft-innocent accused,” arguing that the guidelines deny the accused of due process.
Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Research Center, called Meadows’ comments “ridiculous,” noting that false allegations make up a small fraction of rape reports.
“Sexual assault is a common crime with serious far-reaching impact for victims, their families, institutions and entire communities,” Houser told The Huffington Post last month. “We need our elected officials to use this consistent research to enhance safety on campuses and in the communities where they are based.”
This article has been updated to reflect Know Your IX’s role in the social media campaign.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.