On May 6, the U.S. Department of Education released a new rule rolling back the civil rights afforded to student survivors of gender violence under Title IX. The ruling applies to all schools receiving federal funding and further narrows the definition of sexual harassment and assault. Moreover, the ruling limits schools to investigate only on-campus violence — despite the fact 92 percent of sexual assaults occur off campus.
UNC has a sickening history of failed support and protection for students who have experienced abuse and has drawn national headlines year after year. Despite national scrutiny, the University has perpetuated decades of systemic failure to stop sexual violence and maintained a culture of sexual assault. According to the Association of American Universities, sexual assault has increased at UNC since 2015. More specifically, a recent AAU survey found one in three UNC undergraduate women experience non-consensual sexual touching or penetration.
I, myself, contribute to this statistic. I also stand with the hundreds of victims who have pursued recourse through Title IX but were misled and neglected by UNC’s failed implementation and enforcement of policies that are supposed to protect us. UNC lacks an effective and constructive procedure, and survivors suffer as a result.
The UNC policy is rife with opaque guidelines, subjective decision making and conflicts of interest that ultimately deter survivors from reporting and limit support options to resources like the local police department. This is alarming, as off-campus police departments are often ineffective at achieving justice for survivors. Moreover, there is a myriad of reasons why survivors, especially queer, undocumented and non-white survivors, should not be forced to turn to law enforcement due to their schools’ failures to protect them. Black women, for example, are disproportionately affected both by sexual violence and by police brutality. Interactions with police pose a greater risk of further harm for Black survivors.
It is imperative that UNC creates a cohesive and equitable Title IX process to protect the lives and rights of survivors from marginalized groups. In a moment of a national reckoning on racial injustice, UNC must adopt fair and comprehensive Title IX policies to protect marginalized survivors. Anything less is discriminatory and dangerous.