Indivisible: How to Bring the #MeToo Movement to Your College Campus
Vote Everywhere is a movement intended to show you how you can make a difference in your community by not only voting at the ballot box but also through what you say, how you act, and where you spend your money. In the Indivisible series, we’ll be exploring the issues that matter to you and providing you with the tools you need to cast your vote every day.
The main objective of civic engagement is to be active in your respective communities, big or small. This is true whether that means vocalizing issues one cares about, staying involved politically, or becoming involved in national movements.
What is #MeToo & Title IX
Since Tarana Burke coined the phrase #MeToo in 2006, women and men across the country have spoken out about their experiences with sexual assault. The #MeToo movement requires and has been utilizing civic engagement strategies to support and empower the movement. Not only are local organizers engaging campuses, colleges are requiring their staff to work on issues related to #MeToo. The #MeToo movement continues to break down barriers to let their survivors’ voices be heard, but to achieve its full potential, the movement requires full engagement across all ages, races, and genders to achieve equality. College students have the ability to engage in the #MeToo movement firsthand by understanding, supporting, and emphasizing more affirmative policies to tackle sexual harassment and encouraging an equitable environment on college campuses.
The first step to engage in the movement is for students to take the time to understand the depth of the issues encompassed in the #MeToo movement. At the heart of the movement is gender equality, as well as enforcing and strengthening the laws that are supposed to protect women against sexual harassment. The Education Amendments Act of 1972 established the statute allowing the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) the authority to enforce Title IX. Title IX states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title IX applies to all institutions receiving federal aid, including higher education institutions. This means most universities have Title IX coordinators to implement Title IX requirements on campus.¹
The OCR interprets Title IX to include prohibition of sex-based harassment, including sexual assault. At many campuses, Title IX coordinators are at the center of the #MeToo debate due to their large, though often opaque, influence over the outcomes of sexual assault cases.
Title IX & Your Campus
The Title IX offices serve two main purposes. First, they ensure there is no discriminatory practices based on sex in any of the education programs. Second, they protect and serve victims of sexual assault. You should use them as a resource, get to know about your biases and others. We all have varying forms of privilege and with this information we can make different decisions and change the cultures of campuses all together.
On your campus, Title IX coordinators, guidance counselors, and career development offices can really shape the nature of a student’s life on campus. It is extremely important to get to know these coordinators and what they do because they can be beneficial for students and victims in the difficult moments. Though guidance counselors and career development offices may be self explanatory, Title IX coordinators tend to work with sensitive cases and therefore tend to be a safe space to discuss the intricacies and complexities of victims’ cases.
Once you have developed relationships with the stakeholders on your campus, work with them to enforce Title IX and hold the campus accountable. There are Title IX laws governing the way sexual assault and harassment is handled on college campuses. If you believe your campus could be doing a better job at handling cases, there are concrete steps you can take, including writing letters to state representatives and senators, and voicing your concerns at city council meetings and town halls.
These individuals are in the critical positions of power, and have the ability to make changes you want to see at your campus and the communities surrounding them. The past couple years brought much needed attention to the epidemic of sexual assault across the United States, but it will take many more phone calls, more personal stories, and more accountability in order for the laws to change. It’s going to take time and consistent effort to ensure change is implemented in your life.
With one in four women experiencing sexual assault on a college campuses², students should not wait until the next election to make a difference. College students should join forces to combat sexual assault on campus and promote stronger policies to allow survivors a better voice to speak their truth. More voices and collaboration will develop stronger policies and protections for all people now and in the future.
¹ Some universities are small and therefore do not have one staff member dedicated solely to Title IX. So, one might need to search a little harder to find them. Guidance counselors, career development officers, and Greek Life staff, are examples of staff members who also serve as Title IX representatives.
² One in four women will experience sexual assault on her college campus. Always take steps to protect your body and heart. Here are some resources for you or someone know: https://www.itsonus.org/tools/.
About The Authors
Led by graduates of our program, the Vote Everywhere Alumni Association promotes the spirit of involvement and participation amongst all Vote Everywhere alumni. Click here to learn more about the Alumni Association.