In addition to pursuing two graduate degrees, Davis currently works with two organizations dedicated to ending campus sexual violence. He serves as a State Director with the Every Voice Coalition, a student-led non-profit that works to mobilize student leaders to pass state laws addressing campus sexual violence. He also works with Know Your IX, a survivor and youth-led project that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.
Every Voice Coalition
Davis said he is currently doing research for the Every Voice Coalition studying the implementation of their sponsored legislation that has been passed in eight states so far. "We're trying to measure the successes and failures of our legislation at schools in the states who have implemented it," he said. "We want to continue to build an evidence-based legislative and advocacy agenda for our youth advocates."
The legislation sponsored by Every Voice addresses campus-based sexual violence based on what Davis calls, "five core tenets." These include free legal and medical counseling services for survivors, confidential counseling, an amnesty guarantee that stipulates students who report sexual assault will not be punished for violating a student conduct policy when the assault occurred, transparent public data on sexual violence, and annual trauma-informed prevention and awareness programming.
Davis said that, unlike the neighboring states of Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island has not yet passed Every Voice's legislation but the organization hopes to create a Rhode Island team in order to make that happen.
Know Your IX
Davis was also recently one of seven student organizers with Know Your IX who traveled to Washington, D.C. for five days of youth activism that included meetings with lawmakers and Biden administration officials to advocate for a swift reversal of the changes made to Title IX by the Trump administration.
Davis expressed frustration with Biden administration delays. "The Trump administration rolled back Title IX and made massive cuts to it that hurt survivors," he said. "And when Biden was elected, he promised in his first hundred days as president that we would get new Title IX rules. But two and a half years later, we still don't have them."
"In 2011, President Obama issued a statement that made it clear that sex discrimination includes sexual violence," said Davis. "And that was the number one thing survivors depended on to get support related to sexual violence at schools. It's one of the only things that makes schools directly responsible for handling that," he said.
In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew the Obama-era Title IX guidance. "One of the things the Trump administration did," explained Davis, "was change the definition of sexual harassment." The new definition stipulated that to qualify the offense must be "severe, pervasive and objectively offensive," he said. "So you have to have all three of those categories, including those words, 'objectively offensive,' which is such a high bar that it is impossible to meet. So now, no one is getting access to support or justice."
Davis explained these changes take all pressure off of schools to investigate incidents of sexual violence. "Schools do a quick investigation and they determine it doesn't meet this really high bar. So there is no further investigation," he said. "Nothing further is done and no support is offered. It just ends there and survivors are left without resources, without justice, without anything."
Davis was highly critical of the Biden administration's slow movement on reversing the Trump-era changes. "In March of 2021, after he took office, Biden issued an executive order that directed the Department of Education to start looking at making Title IX reforms," he said. "This was not the same thing as changing it in the first hundred days as he promised," he added.
"That rulemaking process is extremely long and difficult," he noted. It's a multi-step process that "takes two to three years." Davis said the process could be accelerated. "As the executive, Biden can expedite the process and, for example, bypass things like notice for public comment or the delayed effective date," he said.
While these might seem like obscure policy details, Davis points out they have real-world consequences for students in college right now. "A generation of college students went through school without the protection of the old Title IX rules," he said. "They've never had effective, survivor-centered Title IX rules. That includes me entering college in 2020. People are going through and being traumatized in schools and not being supported and leaving their schools, and no one is doing anything," he said.
Synergy and support
Davis said he has found ways to create synergies between the work he is doing toward his MPA degree and his activism in the sexual violence prevention arena. "It applies perfectly," he said, "right now, we're coming up with problems and policy issues and building solutions in classes. Our assignments involve drafting policy briefs, creating visual campaigns, and things like that. The faculty has been super supportive and is allowing me to do sexual violence work directly related to the campaigns I'm working on with the Every Voice Coalition and Know Your IX," he said. "So the assignments I'm turning in for class, I'm also turning into my teams at these organizations, and we're using that in our work right now," Davis said. "It's terrific. It's the best use of my energy and time possible."
"Professor David Blanding has been so helpful," said Davis. "He's pointed me to people I can connect with, and he's bringing someone in from a sexual violence organization to talk to his class about that type of work." Davis has high praise for the Watson Institute's faculty in general. "They take their cues from students' interests, and try to bring in relevant people," he noted.
He also praised the Watson Institute's MPA Program staff members. "They are so supportive," he said. "If you need anything, Samantha Griffin is the best person in the whole world. Catherine Rodarte is amazing. Matthew Lyddon, is great at connecting me with anyone I need," he said. "It is just the most supportive environment at Brown to do this kind of work."
Resources for Students
Brown University Sexual Assault, Harassment, Relationship Violence
Know Your IX Survivor Resources
End Rape On Campus (EROC) Survivor Resources