Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is ready to revise President Obama's Title IX regulations. In front of an audience at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, DeVos announced that the White House will be placing more of an emphasis on due process when it comes sexual assault allegations on college campuses.
In her speech, DeVos denounced any form of sexual assault as an "act of cowardice and personal weakness." She then spent a good deal of time criticizing the Obama administration for too quickly determining a suspect's guilt. In its "Dear Colleague" initiative back in 2011, the Education Department informed schools what their duties are in light of sexual assault cases.
Under Obama, the department's Office for Civil Rights has issued letters "from the desks of unelected and unaccountable political appointees," DeVos said. Perhaps most controversially, the guidelines indicated that only "a preponderance of evidence," a low burden of proof, had to be provided to judge the accused.
Emily Yoffe of The Atlantic argues that many of the remedies in Title IX that have been pushed on campuses in recent years "are unjust to men, infantilize women, and ultimately undermine the legitimacy of the fight against sexual violence."
She explains why in detail. Based on federal guidelines, school administrators are often expected to enforce "interim restrictions, full-bore investigations and adjudications," Yoffe explains.
It's time for a change, DeVos declared Thursday, signaling that "the era of 'rule by letter' is over." From now on it will be based on a notice-and-comment process.
"One assault is one too many. One aggressive act of harassment is one too many," DeVos remarked, continuing to add, "[o]ne person denied due process is one too many," in a critical nod to students who struggled to receive fair hearings from their schools under the previous approach.
DeVos said that she and her team are making the Title IX changes after studying public feedback. Yet, protesters, some of whom proclaimed they were campus rape survivors, showed up outside of DeVos's speech with signs and chants, accusing her of "protecting rapists."
The education secretary has also raised the temperature of groups like End Rape on Campus, who argue that DeVos just made it harder to allow students to stand up for their civil rights.