DeVos announces changes in Title IX guidance
The U.S. Department of Education is rescinding the Obama administration guidance for handling allegations of sexual assault on college campuses
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced during her speech at George Mason University Sept., 7 that she intends to make changes to the Title IX guidelines of sexual misconduct on college campus with “a workable, effective and fair system” that takes the accused more into consideration.
“Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously,” she said during her speech. “Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
DeVos plans to restore the previous administration’s “failed” policies on sexual assault by rescinding the “Dear Colleague” letter, issued in 2011, which highlights some major changes. In the meantime The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has issued interim guidance as a place holder until the new regulations are finalized.
The “Dear Colleague” letter put a huge emphasis on college’s responsibility of responding quickly and equitably to reports of sexual misconduct. In the Obama-era Title IX policies, colleges were given only 60 days to investigate the issue. The verdict of the case requires there to be a 51 percent chance that the accused is responsible.
“…to convict someone of sexually assaulting another person based off of only a 51 percent chance is (a) not a fair argument and (b) with only 51 percent of evidence you can, hypothetically speaking, convict almost anyone,” said Radford University alumna Liron Mendelsohn, who has a bachelors degree in political science and is working on her law degree at Lynchburg University.
DeVos intended changes gives colleges a more reasonable and appropriate time to investigate the case. This will allow for a more thorough investigation process in order to gather sufficient evidence that is both clear and convincing. Many argue that the higher expectations requirements of the evidence isn’t fair.
“When you’re dealing with instances with sexual misconduct, it’s hard enough to meet the verdict at 51 percent. Nine out of ten cases are ‘he said’ ‘she said’ cases and there is not always a witness there with a camera running a video clip. And raising that to clear and convincing evidence, which is essentially 75 percent makes it that much hard.” Said Lindsay Moran, university clergy and Title IX coordinator of Longwood University.
The pending changes of the policy create a heated debate while leaving both sides in limbo.
“Using ‘preponderance of evidence’ for assault and ‘clear and convincing evidence’ for sexual assault is, in and of itself, discrimination.” Said Sue Carter, Title IX coordinator of Hampden Sydney College. “ I personally think that Secretary DeVos made her decision to rescind the DCL 2011 based on anecdotal situations described her, and that is not fair to complainants, respondents, or institutions that truly got this process right such as Hampden Sydney College and Longwood”
The rollback on college campus sexual assault guidelines leave survivors questioning how to go about reporting their attackers.