The Department of Education announced it will reopen the comment period for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX for 24 hours. For the West Coast, the comment period begins today, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m. and will last until 8:59 p.m. tomorrow.
For the duration of the recently added one-day commenting period, the public is invited to give input on how universities handle claims of sexual assault and harassment on campus.
The proposed changes include a revision to the definition of sexual harassment, narrowing what can be investigated by universities and a stricter standard of evidence when reviewing claims, according to the Department of Education.
These proposed changes are separate from the recent California law requiring Cal Poly and all California State Universities (CSUs) to halt investigation proceedings until a cross-examination live-hearing model is put into place. A cross-examination model, however, is one of the federally proposed changes as well.
To submit a comment online, visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Handwritten comments will also be accepted if postmarked before 2 p.m. pacific time Feb. 15.
The initial 60-day comment period ended Jan. 30. An additional comment period was added in response to reports that the Federal eRulemaking Portal was not working Jan. 30, preventing some from submitting comments, according to the Department of Education.
“Before the last comment period ended, the Department of Education received over 104,000 comments from students, faculty, staff and their supporters, their family members, their loved ones, their best friends, who all want students to have a safe experience at university,” Cal Poly Women and Gender Studies Department Chair Jane Lehr said. “All of those people want students to be able to take action if they experience gender-based violence, harassment, or other sex and gender discrimination”
During the comment period, California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White wrote a letter to DeVos raising concerns about the proposed changes. All 23 CSU presidents, including President Jeffrey Armstrong, signed the letter.
Women’s March SLO intern and communication studies senior Saba Kassa said anyone submitting comments should reference specific sections of the proposed rules in their comments. According to Kassa, who helped set up a postcard drive during the first commenting period, said this adds validity to individual comments.
“Every voice makes a difference. It’s incredibly important to show that we want a more equitable campus and we want a safer campus,” Lehr said. “Share your perspective. Make a difference. Let’s get this done.”