How To Call Your Senator About Title IX & Oppose Betsy DeVos’ Rollback
"The era of 'rule by letter' is over," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday in a signal of a major change to how universities enforce Title IX. In a speech at George Mason University, DeVos announced plans to overhaul how schools respond to allegations of sexual assault on campus, saying an Obama-era directive had "weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students" instead of protecting them. If you're outraged about DeVos' Title IX decision, three words: Call your senator.
In announcing her decision to review and replace the system under which colleges and universities handle investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and assault, DeVos said the Education Department would seek public comment and university expertise to help them develop a new framework. "We will launch a notice-and-comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties in developing a better way," DeVos said, adding that the department wants to seek feedback to replace the current guidelines with "a workable, effective and fair system."
This is where it may be effective to rally your senators to advocate with the Department of Education on behalf of you, their constituent. Whether you call, write, email, or tweet, contacting those tasked with representing you in Congress can be one of the best ways to make your voice heard in Washington, even if you live clear across the country. However, phone calls in particular are said to be especially effective at driving legislative change, according to former congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth.
If you've never reached out to your senator before, it's significantly easier than you might have thought. To begin, you'll need to know who your senators are and how you can get in touch with them. That's where this handy online Senate directory list comes into play. Simply select the state you live in and you'll be given to the name, address, website, and phone numbers of your two state senators.
While there is at least a slim chance you'll manage to speak directly with your senator, you'll most likely be speaking with a member of their staff or be directed to leave a voice message. In either case, let them know you're a constituent before discussing your concerns about DeVos' plan to potentially overhaul Title IX protections for students who report incidents of sexual assault.
If calling your senator to discuss legislative issues is already a part of your weekly routine, keep it up! Consider reaching out to family and friends to encourage them to get to know their own senators. Share with them how easy and empowering civic engagement can be.
It's not a bad idea to follow up a call to your senator with one to your district's congressional representative. Because representatives generally serve a district within a state rather than the state as a whole they have fewer constituents than senators. This means that your concerns could get picked up on faster if you call your representative.
While calling a member of Congress can be intimidating, it can be an important and effective way of getting your voice heard in government. So do a bit of research, jot down a few notes, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone because calling your senator to talk about DeVos' Title IX plans could be one of the most effective things you can do for the time being.