Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
Being a young woman on a college campus today is an experience punctuated by the foreboding "dos" and "don'ts" of our parents, partners, teachers and institutions. It is an experience in which you are told to think twice about taking the Metro alone; to always carry pepper spray; to never leave a friend at a party; to wear whatever you want, but also be aware of your surroundings. It is an experience that acknowledges that, even if you do everything in your power to do the "right" thing, you could still join the 1 in 5 female undergraduates who have experienced some type of sexual assault.
I don't blame this university's Title IX office for its plight. But I would like to ask our university administrators: Why do we talk about Title IX only when there is controversy? Why does the safety of young women at this university come second to practice facilities and building renovations? If this university cares so much about "Fearless Ideas," why does it undermine the idea that female students should attend college free of fear?
As she showed the nation last Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has no intention of protecting the Title IX rights of sexual assault survivors — in fact, quite the opposite. The plan she proposed would revoke the promise of safety for survivors of sexual assault outlined in the education department's "Dear Colleague" letter.
Beyond a policy revocation, this shift will undoubtedly lessen the pressure on universities to prioritize Title IX, creating room for a culture of complacency in which sexual assault cases are swept under the rug and administrators look the other way.
This news is jarring but unsurprising. The Trump administration consistently goes above and beyond when gutting policies that protect the most vulnerable in our society. As a young woman who far too often weighs the "dos" and "don'ts" shoved in my face, I implore this university to counter DeVos' message. The administration must do more than just continuing to comply with federal law; it must proactively fund the Title IX office and facilitate discussions at every level about what it means to protect sexual assault survivors.
Valuing the experiences and safety of women on this campus should not just mean the response to a federal investigation or lawsuit — it should be automatic. Now is not the time for complacency or silence. We must work to establish a campus that protects all students — not just the athletes, or the wealthy or the citizens, or the straight, or the white or the cisgendered. Only then can we begin to protect this house.
Sarah Riback is a sophomore English and sociology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.