Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday, Sept. 7, that her department is rolling back the Obama-era Title IX guidelines on campus sexual assault, claiming the guidelines ignore the right to due process of the accused.
Title IX prohibits federally funded programs from discrimination based on sex, including protection from sexual harassment and assault.
The guidelines were set up in 2011 when the Obama administration released the “Dear colleague” letter with ways for university administrations to handle sexual assault claims. It encouraged them to step up and to treat the issue more seriously on their campuses, threatening to remove federal funds if they didn’t.
“The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime,” reads the letter.
Some critics of the guidelines believe they are unfair and lower the standard of proof against those accused.
DeVos said the Obama administration put the issue back into the spotlight on college campuses, but intimidated and coerced schools to comply with the guidelines.
However, some don’t think this will change how most universities will treat sexual assault.
“The response will occur mostly at the margins,” Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said to USA Today. “There are 20 percent of colleges that weren’t all that committed to Title IX to begin with, and this is going to give them the excuse to pull back. But for 80 percent of the colleges out there that aren’t at the margins, this is a cultural shift that’s already taken place, and they’re smart enough to understand that a rollback of sub-regulatory guidance doesn’t change the fundamentals of Title IX that have been in place for 45 years.”
People took to Twitter to express their view on DeVos’ decision to roll back the Title IX guidelines.
“Betsy DeVos wants to roll back protections for sexual assault victims on campus, just in case her boss ever wants to visit a campus,” tweeted actress Bette Midler.
“I feel physically ill. Betsy DeVos has elevated the dishonest bleating of Men’s Rights Activists above sexual assault survivors,” tweeted TEDTalks social media editor Ella Dawson.
However, not everyone disagreed with the decision.
Multiple news organizations ran op-eds where staff reporters and contributing writers expressed their support for DeVos and due process.
“Women (and men) are assaulted on campus, those assaults can be devastating, and the victims do not always receive justice when they come forward,” wrote Emily Yoffe for The Atlantic. “But we have arrived at the point at which schools investigate, adjudicate, and punish the kind of murky, ambiguous sexual encounters that trained law-enforcement officials are unable to sort out—and also at the point at which the definition of sexual misconduct on many campuses has expanded beyond reason.”
DeVos said that the Department of Education will soon open a comment period for the public to submit their ideas about how universities should handle sexual asault allegations.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.