The Department of Education (ED) recently proposed a set of policies involving Title IX — a civil rights law preventing discrimination based on sex in schools — which could require K-8 schools and universities including Loyola to makes changes to policies surrounding sexual misconduct.
The new policies propose a stricter definition of sexual harassment and could lessen regulations on how schools are required to respond to incident, The Phoenix reported.
Students interested in learning about the policies and how to have their voices heard attended a “Title IX Notice and Comment Workshop” on Tuesday hosted by Challenging Antiquated Norms For Gender Equality (CHANGE), a student organization which works with the Wellness Center in opposing gender-based violence.
This helped students learn how to submit an official comment to the department, according to Robin Berman, senior health educator and advocacy coordinator in the Wellness Center.
“These regulations are going to affect students directly, so we want to create an atmosphere and education that helps students be able to have their voices heard through this public comment period,” Berman said. “So it’s about teaching students how to write comments, giving them information that will help them write comments so that they can have their own personal thoughts and voices heard.”
The event was primarily held to allow students to be more involved in the political process, according to Mira Krivoshey, assistant director of health promotion in the Wellness Center and advisor for CHANGE.
“Secondly, we understand that a lot of these proposed regulations have the potential to impact all students at Loyola, with a specific potential to impact on survivors of gender-based violence,” Krivoshey said.
Students could sit down and write “comments,” or letters on the proposed rules to the ED. Comments are submitted during a notice and comment period, which gives the public an opportunity to voice their opinions before federal regulations are passed.
“The Department of Education, who released the proposed rules, [is] required to respond to the input before it issues its final rulings,” Krivoshey said. “And courts can strike down the rulings if the department doesn’t adequately address the points made in the comments.”
Courts are required to respond to all comments, unless they’re not “substantive,” according to Krivoshey.
“They have to respond to substantive comments, that’s sort of the language,” Krivoshey said. “What that means is a little bit murkier. Substantive comments are comments that involve or invoke case law. Substantive comments involve things that are supplemented by data.”
Personal experiences are also important to include in comments, Krivoshey said.
Isabel Fitzsimons, an 18-year-old first-year and undecided major, said she heard about the event through Facebook and has attended other CHANGE events in the past.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault is something that I care very strongly about,” Fitzsimons said. “I know a lot of people who advocate for it and also who are survivors of it, and I myself am an advocate for victims of sexual harassment and assault.”
Francesca Spizzo, a 19-year-old sophomore and sociology major, is a member of CHANGE and helped organize the workshop. She said CHANGE wants to do anything the topic more accessible on campus.
“I think that the best thing you can do that’s free and easy is just spreading the word,” Spizzo said.
The ED couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication.