With senate vote set for Thursday, students weigh in on Secretary of Education nominee
On Tuesday, a committee voted to advance the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, which will come to a Senate vote on Thursday. Since President Donald J. Trump announced his selection in November, it has drawn criticism from the general public and students in particular.
One of the controversies surrounding DeVos arose from a donation made to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). This organization supported a bill that would complicate the protocol for women reporting sexual assaults on campus, according to USA Today.
The NO MORE organization at Rutgers, which aims to prevent and fight sexual assault and domestic violence on campus, is concerned about DeVos’ nomination, said Megan Coyne, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and policy director of the organization.
Coyne said DeVos favors a decentralized view of education, which essentially would allow the fight to fall largely to the states, creating more problems. There is a lack of consistency among state legislatures when it comes to legislative action regarding campus sexual violence.
“We need federal regulation that affirms the rights of survivors and seeks to protect them. I worry that a lack of federal oversight and guidance will cause a decline in the lack of attention and support given to survivors, and result in their rights being violated,” Coyne said.
The Office of Civil Rights operates within the Federal Department of Education and is responsible for releasing a list of active cases, Coyne said. They have made this list public every week for the past two years, but last week, they failed to release it on time.
Coyne said this does not make her optimistic about the direction the administration will take.
“I’m afraid they will be less transparent and aggressive in the fight. I’m also afraid that they won’t focus as much on supporting survivors and making students aware of their rights in such a situation,” she said.
She said she feels that DeVos deeply lacks the knowledge to make the important decisions.
As Secretary of Education, DeVos would make decisions that impact federal aid and grants, then colleges and universities will be composed of very privileged young adults, said Allison Stagaard, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
DeVos has been a crusader for the charter school systems as well as the vouchers that are given to parents to pay for religious education or private schooling, said Ross Baker, a distinguished professor in the Department of Political Science.
This support can be a threat to both public education and the separation of church and state, Baker said.
"She's a really big proponent of the voucher program which disenfranchises minorities and low-income earners," said Ariel Davies, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "Basically taking our country away from public education which is so successful in countries like France and Sweden where they truly invest in their young ones' education."
During the nominee's hearing confirmation, DeVos' statement regarding guns being allowed in schools due to the threat of bear attacks set a horrible precedent, Davies said.
Baker said her vagueness and evasions on the topic of tuition-free higher education was wise based on the fact that it is a nonstarter in the Trump administration.
“In the hearings, her grasp of federal education policy was not impressive. I think she has the weakest credentials of any of the cabinet nominees with the exception of Dr. Carson at HHS (United States Department of Health & Human Services),” Baker said.
Brielle Diskin is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.