Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks to the audience at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Feb. 23. DeVos and the Department of Education are rolling back Obama-era sexual assault regulations on college campuses.

The number of sexual assaults on college campuses have weighed down on university administrations across the country, and it has become a serious issue they face every semester. Victims have claimed universities do not do enough to protect their students—as one in five female undergraduate students are victims of sexual assault.

In 2014, 40 percent of colleges and universities reported not investigating a single sexual assault in the previous five years, 30 percent did not provide sexual assault training and 70 percent did not have protocol when it came to working with local law enforcement.

Statistics like these persuaded the Obama administration to send the “Dear Colleague” letter in April 2011. The letter placed more responsibility on universities to combat sexual assault on campuses. The letter threatens to cut or remove federal funding from the institutions that don’t comply with the regulations, which requires universities to investigate claims into sexual assault, provide resources to the victims and employ a Title IX coordinator to oversee everything.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded programs. This includes athletics, higher education and sexual assault.

Obama-era Title IX regulations pertaining to sexual assault are now being rolled back on college campuses, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Thursday, Sept. 7. DeVos claims the regulations ignore the due process rights of the accused and favors the accuser.

The University of Nevada, Reno, a federally funded institution, is required to follow the regulations set by Title IX. However, it does not have to limit its response to sexual assault to just these regulations.

However, DeVos believes that the students accused of sexual assault are unfairly treated by these regulations.

“Survivors aren’t well-served when they are re-traumatized with appeal after appeal because the failed system failed the accused,” DeVos said in a speech at George Mason University. “And no student should be forced to sue their way to due process.”

Denise Cordova, Title IX coordinator at UNR since 2010, said she doesn’t think DeVos knows exactly how the Title IX process works, particularly at UNR.

“It appears to me that she believes there is favoritism towards the reporting student, and that we don’t allow the responding student to give us their version of what occurred and we’re not assisting the responding student either,” said Cordova. “I think that’s a misperception of what is going on … our responding students have due process.”

According to Cordova, students responding to accusations are allowed to provide their version of what happened, witnesses to it and any other services that may be provided to the accusing student. These services are available to both parties throughout their time at the university.

Cordova said the university will continue to abide by the Nevada System of Higher Education policy on sexual assault, which requires the university to investigate the claims and provide remedies to the situation.

“Because I have a lot of experience in the way our process works and in investigations of sexual assault and interpersonal violence, I think the process works,” said Cordova. “This is a process we believe strongly in and we want to make sure that our students know that they are entitled to resources as well.”

Cordova encourages those who are victims of sexual assault to report it to her office. She also stressed that the accusing student has the ability to control how far the Title IX office takes their investigation.

UNR Police Services also encourages victims to report the assault to the police, which can preserve evidence of the assault and help with medical services.

Sexual assault is defined in Nevada as “any unwanted, forced, or coerced sexual act” that involves penetration of some kind, according to the UNR webpage on sexual assault.

The web page lists the steps to take if sexually assaulted, including reporting options, therapy resources and a number of hotlines designed to assist those affected by sexual assault.

The statute of limitations to report sexual assault in Nevada is 4 years if the victim is over the age of 18 when the assault occurs. If the victim is under 18, they have until they are 21 to report the assault.

In 2014, the university did a survey on sexual conduct and campus safety. The results showed that 80 percent of respondents knew their perpetrator, but only 9 percent reported the incident. Both women and men reported being sexually assaulted.

Almost 30 percent of the participants reported drinking before the assault, and 4 percent said they were given a drug involuntarily. Perpetrators reported that 11 percent of the time, they took advantage of an incapacitated person, and they were drinking themselves 33 percent of the time.

Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the Title IX office for different resources available to them through the university. For more information, visit the sexual assault webpage at www.unr.edu/counseling/sexual-assault-procedures and the Title IX frequently asked questions page at www.unr.edu/eotix/faq.

Madeline Purdue can be reached at mpurdue@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.