With Pens and Posters, Students Prepare to Protest DeVos

Our Harvard Can Do Better
Students from “Our Harvard Can Do Better” gathered at Harvard Law School on Tuesday evening to make signs and banners protesting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ rolling-back of Obama-era Title IX guidelines. DeVos will speak at the Institute of Politics on Thursday.
Seated cross-legged on the floor and armed with poster paper and colorful markers, roughly 20 students gathered at Harvard Law School Tuesday evening to scrawl messages protesting the arrival of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is slated to speak on campus Thursday.

“The cost of education shouldn’t include sexual violence,” read one poster.

“Democracy needs public schools,” read another.

The poster-making session comes three days before DeVos’s arrival in Cambridge—and three days before a large counter-demonstration scheduled to take place at the same time. As of Tuesday, more than 1,000 people had indicated on Facebook they were “interested” in attending the protest.

DeVos will give the keynote address Thursday evening at an event titled “A Conversation on Empowering Parents” hosted by the Institute of Politics. Her speech comes roughly a week after she cancelled an Obama-era requirement that colleges use the lowest standard of proof, known as “preponderance of the evidence,” when judging whether an accused student is guilty of sexual assault.

Harvard, which currently uses the lowest standard of proof, has said it is “reviewing” DeVos’s new Title IX guidance, but that it has no current plans to update its policy. Student activists have repeatedly condemned DeVos’s actions and called on the University to take a public stand against the Education Secretary.

Three campus activist groups—the Harvard Graduate Students Union, the Harassment/Assault Law-Student Team, and Our Harvard Can Do Better, an undergraduate-run anti-sexual assault advocacy organization—organized the postering event Tuesday. In an email announcing the session, the three groups invited students to come make posters and “plan” for Thursday’s demonstration.

The Harassment/Assault Law-Student Team and Our Harvard Can Do Better are also co-hosting that protest, titled “Stand for All Students: #StopBetsy,” along with Boston-based groups including the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance.

Our Harvard Can Do Better organizers Amelia Y. Goldberg ’19 and Julia Huesa ’20 said the group began efforts to organize against DeVos shortly after her Friday decision to rescind the Obama-era rules about standard of proof.

“Betsy DeVos’s policies and statements pose threats to survivors’ rights and rights of students,” Huesa said. “We are here to organize and make sure that our voices are heard when she comes to campus Thursday.”

Goldberg said she is “really excited” for Thursday’s rally and that she feels inspired by the “huge” number of students who have said they want to participate.

She added she has been less pleased with Harvard’s response to DeVos.

“In part students are stepping up here because Harvard is failing to do so,” Goldberg said. “Harvard should be doing more to make sure that this burden doesn’t just fall on us.”

In a written statement Tuesday evening, Harassment/Assault Law-Student Team co-presidents Sarah B. Gutman and Marielle Sanchez wrote that “being silent is being complicit.”

Thursday’s protest marks the second time in two weeks that the Institute of Politics has come under fire for its invited speakers. On Sept. 15, the Kennedy School of Government withdrew an invitation for Chelsea Manning to serve as a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics after high-level current and former CIA officials condemned the decision.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.


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