The Pitt News

Editorial: DeVos confirmed, but we can still work toward change

American+business+woman+Betsy+DeVos+testifies+before+the+Senate+HELP+Committee+on+her+nomination+to+be+Education+Secretary+in+the+Dirksen+Senate+Office+Building+Jan.+17%2C+2017%2C+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+%28Riccardo+Savi%2FSipa+USA%2FTNS%29
American business woman Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate HELP Committee on her nomination to be Education Secretary in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Riccardo Savi/Sipa USA/TNS)

American business woman Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate HELP Committee on her nomination to be Education Secretary in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Riccardo Savi/Sipa USA/TNS)

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American business woman Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate HELP Committee on her nomination to be Education Secretary in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Riccardo Savi/Sipa USA/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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After a valiant but ineffective 24-hour effort by Senate Democrats to sway one more Republican against Betsy DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote on Tuesday to officially make DeVos our next secretary of education.

While there’s been much criticism of her approach to K-12 education, DeVos has yet to speak about her intentions for higher education. If her track record with lower-level education or her performance during the confirmation process is indicative of what the next four years will mean for colleges and universities, the future may be looking grim. With her inexperience and lack of firm positions on higher education telling us nothing, it’s time she take a clear stance on the issues.

With such a blank slate ahead of her, DeVos must commit to action and an agenda that tackles the chief issues facing our universities today — matters such as sexual assault on campus, tuition costs and student loans.

In her hearings, DeVos addressed these issues briefly but not substantively, either due to her lack of knowledge, unwillingness to make a decision or as an attempt to sidestep so as not to deter senators passionate about the matters. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos claimed it was “premature” to decide if she would uphold the 2011 ruling on Title IX — an act covering sexual harassment and active prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. And she barely engaged with questions about free tuition from Sen. Bernie Sanders, vaguely stating that nothing is “truly free.”

If DeVos’s failure to commit to stances on such issues are only due to her own ignorance, it’s now her job to figure them out. Since the secretary is a known conservative and appointee of President Trump, we can’t hope she’ll be enacting liberal policies on education over the next four years. But the people — students, teachers, advocates and protesters alike — can pressure her into more fair and bipartisan stances that focus on students first, and not politics.

One of the main powers DeVos holds over education as the head of the department is the power to advocate and speak on a national level. She can give speeches and host meetings that disseminate ideas into the mainstream. But we have just as much power as her in that realm. We can combat her views, challenge her stances and spread our own ideas about what’s best for America’s students when DeVos fails to do so.

And although campaigns to bombard Republican senators with messages to oppose the DeVos confirmation failed, it did so only by one senator. Congress holds the approval for any financial changes DeVos may want to — inevitably — make. So when the time comes, representatives may be more easily swayed away from her by determined constituents.

DeVos’ confirmation is nothing short of the most controversial appointment in the history of her position. She has a lot of work to do to prove her skeptics wrong and supporters right. Hopefully, after today, she has a 50-senator-heavy chip on her shoulder that she’s ready to work off. And we’ll be here to make sure she does just that.

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Editorial: DeVos confirmed, but we can still work toward change