Sanity on Title IX

Marsha Scott
September 10, 2017

With guards still up from the administration's news on DACA earlier in the week, Trump opponents reacted vehemently to the federal attack on the law that requires schools to respond fairly and promptly to sexual assault allegations.

"They know we're right".

Texts, iPhone video and social media postings from survivors, witnesses and the accused give investigators so much more real-time information than ever before that we should long since have retired the lazy "he said, she said, and who can know?" assumption that these cases are just too complicated to figure out.

Yesterday's announcement by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that she and the administration will revise the guidance on campus sexual assault will leave universities with less clarity, and make LGBTQ students, students of color, students with disabilities, all students, more vulnerable. While she denounced sexual assault as "reprehensible", she said the current system has not achieved due process for either party.

Universities like UC Berkeley and Stanford have already started protesting this new change and have even generated lawsuits. "This is extremely troubling".

During her remarks, she hesitated to commit to outright changing the policy, at least not before soliciting public feedback on the program now in place.

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Online critics included former Vice President Joe Biden, who had championed curbing sexual assault on campus as one of his missions while in office with the initiative "It's On Us". The administration's discourse surrounding sexual assault mainly underplays its severity and casts doubt upon its victims.

Two Tennessee universities that have faced major Title IX investigations were muted in the face of potential changes to federal policies surrounding campus sexual assaults.

This criticism is what DeVos echoed in her speech Thursday, when she shared stories of both survivors and "victims of a lack of due process".

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is receiving threats after she announced changes to the Title IX program Thursday as it was known under President Obama. "I think what she's doing is saying let's take a timeout, and let's hear from everybody what the process should be". After DeVos' statements, it is expected the Department of Education will issue formal changes soon. "Addressing widespread concerns about the fairness of current college sexual misconduct codes, the secretary noted that respect for due process is 'the foundation of any system of justice that seeks a fair outcome, ' and that codes must ensure 'fair procedures that inspire trust and confidence.' With regard to the unilateral and opaque way that current federal mandates in this area were imposed, she further assured listeners that the era of rule by letter is over". In recent years, it's been associated with efforts to address sexual assault and harassment at college campuses.

Vanderbilt University has been at the center of conversations about Title IX and campus sexual assault since 2013, when four former Vanderbilt football players were charged with raping a female student in a dorm room. The department told BuzzFeed News that it has no timeline on when the overhaul process - which will include a notice-and-comment period for the public to submit their suggestions on the topic - will begin, but confirmed that a major 2011 directive will be rolled back. About 800,000 immigrants, including tens of thousands of school-age students, are protected under the program. "Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined", she said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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