Students plan to decorate mortarboards to show support for Title IX

Olivia Exstrum, Assistant Summer Editor

Multiple students are planning to decorate their mortarboards with a taped “IX” at Northwestern’s commencement ceremony Friday morning to celebrate NU’s progress regarding Title IX and to show solidarity for those affected by sexual assault and violence.

“Basically, we’re hoping that people tape a IX to their mortarboard to stand with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence,” said rising Weinberg senior Jazz Stephens, who organized the event. “Obviously, a lot of things involving Title IX have been going on on campus.”

However, according to the Division of Student Affairs website, “Candidates may not alter or decorate their regalia in any way or wear additional articles not directly related to academic merit.” The website also says that breaking this rule could potentially result in a student not being able to participate in commencement.

Because of this policy, Stephens said students plan on using duct tape so it can be easily removed if necessary. The event page on Facebook, “Tape for Title IX,” warns participating students of the University’s policy against the mortarboard decoration.

As of now, Stephens is unsure of how many students plan on participating. She said she has been publicizing the event through both the Facebook page and word of mouth. She added that she also handed out flyers at Norris University Center with a link to the Facebook page.

“There have been a lot of people who are really keen on the idea, but it’s that extra step of taking the risk and going against policy that is putting people off,” Stephens said. “I genuinely have no idea if this will take off or not, but I hope a lot of people do it.”

Medill senior Madeleine May said she plans on participating because she has been active in other events involving Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She said she participated in the sit-in of one of philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow’s philosophy classes held during Winter Quarter. Students were protesting Ludlow’s employment and NU’s sexual assault policies after a Medill junior sued NU alleging that her rights under Title IX were violated.

“The problem with protests on campus is that they often become very trendy,” May said. “People are very tuned into the issues, but then time passes and people forget. I thought this was a good way to show my classmates and the administration that this is not an issue that is going away.”

(Updated: Planned sit-in turns into protest of Northwestern’s sexual assault policies)

Although May said she is aware of the policy against mortarboard decoration, she said she doesn’t think it will be an issue.

“I can’t really imagine what circumstance would cause (the administration) to react negatively,” May said. “I don’t think anyone will be in a position to say something while we’re (at the ceremony), but if so we would just have to take the tape off.”

Students at several universities across the country have held similar events, including Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College and Stanford University. Stephens said she was inspired to organize the event after students at Harvard University donned mortarboards decorated with red tape during their commencement ceremony in May as a protest against the school’s sexual assault policies.

“We got the inspiration from what happened at Harvard, and we thought it would be cool to do that here and stand with the other universities going through Title IX,” Stephens said.

May said she thinks it’s important that the University shows solidarity with not only survivors, but with students at other universities.

“There are a lot of universities that are doing things like this,” she said. “I think it would be unfortunate for Northwestern to not be with the schools who take part in that.”

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