The Message Joe Biden Says Students Should Send To Betsy Devos

"Tell this administration that we refuse to go backwards."

On September 7, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave a speech at George Mason University in which she announced her department's intent to end guidelines (known as the Dear Colleague Letter) that outlined how college campus should handle sexual assault investigations. These rules were previously put in place by the Obama administration.

Former Vice President Joe Biden created the Dear Colleague Letter in 2011, and though DeVos didn't explicitly say how she will be altering it, she has strongly suggested the accused need to be better protected. "There must be a better way forward. Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined," she declared in her speech according to Time, adding the system in place is a "failed" one.



The Dear Colleague Letter that's now being threatened by the current administration aids sexual assault survivors by stipulating educational institutions have a legal responsibility to protect their students from gender discrimination. The instruction also makes it clear that institutions which don't comply risk losing federal funding under Title IX —the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

It should come as no surprise then that Biden, who in addition to championing the Dear Colleague Letter spent a great deal of his time in the White House fighting against campus sexual violence, was troubled by DeVos's words. In a retort published on Facebook, the former Vice President reiterated just how common sexual assault on college campuses is, citing statistics that say "one in five women will be sexually assaulted during her college career."

He also asked students to tell the administration that they weren't going back to how it was before.

"Today's announcement that the Department of Education plans to rewrite key Title IX guidance which works to address and prevent sexual assault in our schools is a step in the wrong direction," he explained. "The truth is, although people don't want to talk about the brutal reality of sexual assault, especially when it occurs in our most cherished institutions, it is our reality, and it must be faced head-on. And any change that weakens Title IX protections will be devastating."

Going one step further, Biden called sexual assault the "ultimate abuse of power." 

"Its pernicious presence in our schools is unacceptable," he added. "Policies that do not treat this epidemic with the utmost seriousness are an insult to the lives it has damaged and the survivors who have worked so hard to make positive change."

The 74-year-old starts wrapping up his impassioned post by calling on others to take action. "Students, parents, faculty, alumni. Don't just sit and watch. Speak up. Any rollback of Title IX protections will hurt your classmates, your students, your friends, your sisters. Make your views known."

Ending on a hopeful note, Biden added he's seen how the culture can change thanks to his work with the It's On Us campaign, which aims to alter the way students and others think and talk about sexual assault. "Students have taken on this fight. Keep fighting," he concluded. "Tell this administration that we refuse to go backwards."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Drop of Light.

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