Student senate, It's On Us protest Title IX changes

By Shiloh Reynolds | 1/21/19 12:52am


Students silently walking for the Title XI Changes Protest on Grand Valley’s campus this past Wednesday, January 9th. GVL / Emily Modloff

Despite below-freezing temperatures, approximately 60 people congregated near Grand Valley State University’s Cook Carillon Tower the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 16 in order to show dissent toward the Department of Education’s proposals to make changes to Title IX.

The protest was the original idea of GVSU’s It’s On Us president Maddie Vervaeke, who worked with Student Senate to implement the event.

The event began with brief speeches from Vervaeke and student senate president Rachel Jenkin. They gave an overview of the proposed changes to Title IX (among which include decreasing a university’s liability in the case of off-campus assaults, narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and requiring live university hearings with cross-examination), and then called upon listeners to march silently to both show respect for victims of sexual assault as well as to stand in solidarity with them.

The silent march led protesters in a loop around campus; from the Cook Carillon Tower, participants made their way past Zumberge Pond, over the Little Mackinaw Bridge and through North Campus before finally returning to the clock tower. During the march, some protesters brandished signs that bore messages such as, “Support Title IX The Way It Is. Support All Students," “Protect Survivors,” “Keep Survivors Safe” and “Greek Life is Taking a Stand.”

Capriana Calvachi said that she had found out about the protest only a few hours earlier that day, but still thought showing up was very important to help make others aware of the issue.

“This is really important," Calvachi said. "I’ve seen a lot about it in the news lately... Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment is terrifying, and it’s important to make more people aware of these (potential) changes."

April Mueller said she chose to attend the protest because she finds some of the proposed changes especially troubling.

“I came out to support students who are affected by sexual assault and I think it’s crazy universities (wouldn't) be held liable,” Mueller said.

Student protesters were joined by select faculty members.

“I was very happy with the turn out, especially the presence of administrators... It was really empowering to have the Dean of Students and Provost present,” Jenkin said.

Jenkin said she was also pleased at the diversity of the groups that came out to protest, noting a large Greek Life and first-year student presence.

After the group reassembled back at the Cook Carillon Tower, Jenkin urged her fellow protesters to, “Continue to talk about it. Don’t let the conversation stop here.” 

The 60-day period for public comment on the proposed changes will conclude on Jan. 28. 

Jenkin is currently in the midst of preparing a resolution to send to the Department of Education that highlights specific reasons GVSU's student senate believes the proposed changes could be harmful to students. Jenkin encouraged other protestors to not only keep discussing the issue, but also to submit their own feedback to the Department of Education before the public comment period closes. 

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