Workers Rebuff Secretary DeVos’ Proposed Title IX Rule Change

Graduate workers, professors and supporters across the nation are mobilizing through their unions to launch a grassroots campaign to fight for the rights and protections of sexual assault victims on college campuses

Today, four major higher education unions issued comments opposing the changes on behalf of their members

NATIONAL — Today, community supporters, graduate workers, professors have joined together in their unions to rebuff Secretary Devos’ proposed rule changes to Title IX. Ahead of the original January 28th deadline, they submitted an extensive collection of public comments to the Department of Education. Together four major higher education unions, Service Employee International Union (SEIU), National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFCME) submitted a joint comment on why assault survivors’ rights should be preserved.

“The adversarial and contentious nature of cross-examination would further traumatize college and graduate school survivors who seek help through Title IX. Being asked detailed, personal, and humiliating questions often rooted in gender stereotypes and rape myths that tend to blame victims for the assault they experienced would understandably discourage many students—parties and witnesses—from participating in a Title IX grievance process, chilling those who have experienced or witnessed harassment from coming forward.” the joint comment asserts.

On November 16, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed rule changes to Title IX regarding how colleges handle harassment and assault. Many faculty, graduate workers, students and community activists say the proposed changes discourage assault survivors from reporting incidents and rolls back progress made in holding institutions accountable.

“At a time when survivors are bravely stepping forward about the prevalence of sexual assault, Secretary Betsy DeVos actions are a slap in the face,” said Jessica Gokhberg, a Duke University graduate worker and SEIU Faculty Forward/SEIU Workers United Southern Region Local 27 member. “As students, graduate workers and faculty, too many of us face assault, harassment and discrimination on campus. We have worked long and hard to empower survivors who speak out. The Secretary’s proposal isn’t just a step back; it is designed to silence survivors. We will not tolerate this attack.”

Given graduate workers’ unique situation, in which they often work closely with faculty advisors and supervisors, they find themselves particularly vulnerable to workplace harassment and assault issues. As a result, they have mobilized in opposition to Secretary DeVos’ controversial changes to Title IX. After the announcement, they held national calls, launched petition and letter-writing campaigns encouraging graduate student workers to submit comments and held an educational webinar about survivors’ rights on campus and joined direct actions across the country.


Faculty Forward, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is home to more than 54,000 unionized college and university faculty who have won improvements in pay, job security, benefits and more on more than 60 campuses nationwide. For more information, visit