Manggala: Education pick could be disastrous for Oregon
Last week, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education with a narrow 51-50 margin, with the tie-breaker coming from Vice President Mike Pence. Education is largely under state and local control, but DeVos will be in charge of federal-level decisions and expresses many of the same views as President Donald Trump.
There was a nationwide concern over DeVos after her Senate confirmation hearing. Her vague answers and lack of knowledge pertaining to the education system is troubling as she even failed to name the difference between assessing students based on proficiency or based on growth.
What does that mean for us? All of this is happening 3,000 miles away, but the decision to confirm DeVos could easily affect students at the University of Oregon. The U.S. Department of Education doesn’t just handle the federal budget for schools, they handle all matters of discrimination in schools based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
With DeVos as Secretary of Education, our civil rights could be at risk.
Many students were hoping during the presidential election for more government support in our education system. With DeVos as Secretary of Education, our hopes for a tuition decrease is more than likely gone. DeVos even dismissed the concept of free tuition, claiming that “nothing in life is truly free.”
Earlier this week, University of Oregon President Michael Schill announced that there will be a 10.6 percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 3 percent increase for out-of-state students, which means Oregon residents will have to cough up about an extra $1,000 to attend the school. Although it’s not a result of confirming DeVos, this shows that students are already in financial struggle before the DeVos era has even begun.
Will DeVos help us out financially? Probably not. Although 90 percent of students in America go to a public school, her support for private and charter schools hints at who she will be focusing her attention on during her time in the Trump administration.
What does that mean for students at the University of Oregon? Are we going to be alienated even further by our government? DeVos hasn’t named her plan yet, but cutting our funding further can mean the university will lose resources such as faculty members, courses, majors and students as well.
In 2011, the Obama administration expanded Title IX of the Education Amendments Act to require college campuses to take an active role in combatting sexual assault. When asked if DeVos would uphold the law, her answer was unsettling: “Senator, I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance – I would look forward to working together to find some resolutions.”
For a campus like the UO, this is bad news considering how much our student body focuses on protecting students from sexual assault. Title IX is a procedure and a list of requirements that colleges must follow in response to a sexual assault case. Some of the requirements include:
- If an assault is reported, the school must conduct an investigation
- Ensure confidential reporting
- Issue students, parents and teachers a specific procedure on how to respond to sexual assault, such as where to go and who to report to
- Provide appropriate accommodations to survivors
If DeVos revokes the law, which seems more likely than not, government funding toward combatting sexual assault and institutional support for victims of sexual assault will drastically decrease.
This is troubling for students at the UO because many of students advocate for campus sexual assault education. During orientation week, every student at UO watches a play put on by the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team about identifying sexual assault and how to ask for consent. Revoking Title IX would make it harder for students to learn about their rights and responsibilities in terms of sexual assault.
While Obama’s administration was celebrated for Title IX in 2011, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education responded differently. In several cases, FIRE, a conservatively biased group, has challenged the measure and protected the rights of men accused of sexual assault. They believe that colleges should not be adjudicating in response to rape charges, claiming schools are not suited to judge felony claims.
The problem? DeVos has donated to the organization multiple times.
The UO is home to many sexual assault survivors and students of the LGBTQIA+ community, who have historically been vulnerable to adjudication involving sexual assault. DeVos is against sexual assault but has not admitted that it is a problem on college campuses, despite the fact that one in five college women are sexually assaulted.
The bottom line is, students nationwide will have to watch out for their educational rights while Betsy DeVos is our Secretary of Education.