Dear Missouri Senators and Representatives:
St. Louis Graduates, a network advocating for equity in postsecondary education, and the Active Advocacy Coalition of students attending Missouri colleges and universities hope you will join us and a chorus of higher education organizations in OPPOSING HCS 573 and SB 259.
The content of the bills is punitive in its potential impact and represents yet another attempt to pass legislation impacting students without the input of students. At their core, the bills undermine the intent of Title IX and significantly weaken the ability of victims of harassment and assault to see justice served if they have the courage to come forth and file a grievance.
The bills are particularly harmful to low-income students. The way the bills are written risks putting Missouri out of compliance with federal law, opening the potential that Missouri’s lowest-income students would be unable to access Pell funding. Adding to the administrative and legal burden of institutions will certainly drive up costs to students. Further, low-income students, whether victims or defendants, are ill able to afford attorneys to represent them in the process the bills would establish, creating a system that favors the perspectives of those who can afford legal representation over those who cannot.
We take issue with the false narrative that these bills promote racial equity. Given disaggregated data is not available on Title IX cases, there is no way to validate the unsubstantiated rhetoric that such cases disproportionately target African Americans. Our greater concern is that the new bills, if passed, would make it far more complex for African American victims – or any victims – to have their voices heard and due process carried out.
We urge you to OPPOSE HCS 573 and SB 259.
St. Louis Graduates Advocacy Committee
Faith Sandler, Chair
Karissa Anderson, Manager, Active Advocacy Coalition