Education secretary faces largely silent protest at Harvard speech

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2017 6:48 PM

By Scott Malone

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was confronted by largely silent protesters carrying signs opposing a Trump administration move to change how colleges handle sex assault allegations at a speech at Harvard University on Thursday.

DeVos ignored the protesters and did not directly address a White House move to reverse Obama-era guidance on how colleges should handle sex assault allegations during her remarks, which focused on promoting school choice.

More than a dozen protesters stood in the crowd holding signs reading "protect survivors" and "our students are not 4 sale."

"Like education, we all need food to grow and thrive, but we don't all need the exact same thing at the exact same time,” DeVos said, appearing to stick to her prepared remarks. She compared the choice between public and private schools to the options Americans face in dining, saying, "we choose how to get the food that meets our unique needs."

The White House last week reversed Obama-era guidance on how colleges should handle sexual assault allegations, saying that the prior administration's policies led to too many students being falsely charged and disciplined.

The prior rules outlined a strict set of steps for schools to follow or risk losing funding under Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in education. Opponents of those rules said that they allowed schools to use lower standards of evidence of those followed in criminal proceedings.

DeVos, a billionaire who has drawn fire for her advocacy of for-profit schools, was confirmed in February when Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. She is married to the heir and former chief executive of Amway.

She is also the daughter of the founders of Prince Corp, a Michigan car parts supplier, and sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the security company formerly known as Blackwater USA, now called Academi.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio)