University of Maryland SGA President AJ Pruitt signed onto a letter with 14 other student body presidents and executive members from the Association of Big Ten Students earlier this week condemning Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ intentions to alter Title IX guidelines regarding sexual misconduct on college campuses.
In the letter, which was published Thursday, association members said they “strongly opposed the complete erasure of Title IX policies regarding sexual misconduct or other changes that would erode much needed protections for student victim-survivors.”
Members also expressed fear that students and survivors of sexual assault will feel neglected and call for a stronger system in the face of sexual violence cases.
DeVos announced last week that she would revamp what she called a “failed system” of the process by which sexual assault cases are handled at universities across the country. DeVos said she intends to rescind the Obama administration’s guidelines that urged schools to aggressively investigate sexual assault.
The letter also recognizes current Title IX guidelines may not be perfect and there is always room for improvement. Members who signed the letter urged DeVos to include students when considering changes to Title IX and sexual misconduct policies at universities.
Pruitt did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Student Government Association Communications Director Nisha Desai said the SGA is committed to making sure that the Title IX office at the University of Maryland continues to function well.
“We are committed to preserving and assisting the Title IX office in any way that we can and maintaining the Obama administration guidelines for Title IX in general,” Desai said. “We and our other Big Ten schools frown upon any legislation that impairs the ability of the Title IX office to do their job.”
Taylor Aguiar, co-director of the SGA Sexual Misconduct Prevention Committee, said her committee plans to continue increasing the university’s commitment to sexual assault prevention.
The committee will follow up with the administration to ensure that it fulfills promises made after reviewing recommendations from the Joint President/Senate Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force, Aguiar said.
The task force, made up of a combination of faculty, staff and students, presented recommendations last semester for how to better address sexual assault on the campus. University President Wallace Loh approved the task force’s recommendations, including requiring incoming freshmen and transfers to complete in-person bystander intervention training, in a measure signed April 25.