Notre Dame students to host Title IX teach-in
Courtney Becker | Friday, April 21, 2017
We Stand For, a student group dedicated to drawing attention to social justice issues, is sponsoring a student-led teach-in focused on Title IX policy, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence Friday.
Senior Grace Watkins said she and the other event organizers were inspired by a “Day of Action” rally in support of Title IX and sexual assault survivors at Columbia at the end of March.
“Originally, we just wanted to, as a group, be involved in some way with combating violence against women — especially with the new administration and all the threatened cuts to domestic violence funding and rollback on Title IX protections,” Watkins said. “So we got connected with No Red Tape at Columbia, and they had this Day of Action planned. … So we decided to pool our resources, reach out to more people and plan the teach-in.”
The teach-in is an event intended to “provide a forum for candid discussion on current Title IX procedures, complainant rights and rape culture,” according to a We Stand For press release. Fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said he hopes the event provides clarity on current and potential Title IX policies.
“There’s lots of confusion out there,” he said. “And so the point of that event at Columbia and the event here is to really drill down what Title IX is about, what that means here at Notre Dame, how that impacts various communities here at Notre Dame and what people can sort of expect moving forward — both at a national level, but also how they can get involved here on campus at a community advocacy level.”
The group decided to host a teach-in rather than a rally — as Columbia did — in order to educate the Notre Dame community about why this kind of activism is necessary, Watkins said.
“Our university doesn’t have the same kind of culture of activism around Title IX that the other involved campuses did,” she said. “So I view this, personally, as almost an attempt to catch up the student body to the point where there can be active rallies and protests around Title IX.”
The discussion will focus mainly on national issues, Watkins said, but will tie them into policies at the University.
“We will be talking about national policy level decisions through the lens of how they’ll affect our campus,” she said. “So specifically, what will Title IX look like if the preponderance-of-evidence standard isn’t used anymore — if we moved back up to [the] clear-and-convincing standard. It would be a disaster.”
While students are welcome to share stories of their own experiences with the Title IX process at Notre Dame during the teach-in, Ricketts said there is no pressure for anyone to do so, as the event will be primarily policy-based.
“We’re not asking that of people, and I wouldn’t even necessarily say that that needs to be a part of someone’s journey as someone who is a survivor of sexual violence,” he said. “If they want to, that’s wonderful, and we’ll absolutely support that, but I think we want to change the conversation beyond just sort of lamenting about how frustrating the process can be here, and move toward a conversation on how can we change that and ensure there are fewer of these stories.”
Watkins said she hopes students who attend the teach-in leave with a greater understanding of Title IX and the potential results of proposed policy changes.
“I want them to walk away knowing their rights,” she said. “I think that’s one of the most powerful ways to remain engaged and navigate the system and be empowered. And also [I want them to] have a mind to what may come in the next four years and how to prepare for that. Because I don’t claim to have all or even many of those answers, but I do know quite a bit about what may take place.”