On Friday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made news in precisely the way many progressives and campus activists feared she would. In a letter by Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, the Trump administration unveiled its change in official policy regarding sexual assault investigations on college campuses. It's fair to say that the change stirred up some emotions on social media, too ― Twitter reacted to Betsy DeVos' new Title IX guidelines on Friday, and there were plenty of takes to sift through.
To be clear, the change to Title IX guidelines is aimed at curbing the sorts of more aggressive campus sexual assault investigations that rose to prominence during the Obama years, processes that conservatives have decried as too harsh and ignoring of due process, while advocates for victims of rape and sexual assault have argued they're a step toward properly empowering victims.
It was pretty clear the Trump administration was going to make this move, as DeVos herself met with some so-called "men's rights" organizations in the run-up to the announcement. That creeping sense of what was ultimately going to happen probably caused many denizens of social media to brace for this moment, and to have some opinions and reactions already in their minds. Here's some of what's been going around Twitter thus far:
1. Take The Country Backward
2. A Disgrace And A Disservice
3. Was A Sham
4. Victim Of False Accusations
5. No Fixed Time Frame
6. The Right To Feel Safe
7. This Is What Happens
8. Colleges Can Choose
9. Confident I'll Get A Second Wind
10. Mobilize To Push Back
11. If You Are A Student
12. Lucky For All You
13. Continue Listening To Survivors
14. A Huge Step Back
15. This Breaks My Heart
16. Pandering To Men's Rights Groups
17. Another Notable Change
18. "Just Open God Damn Season"
19. Could Silence Them Once More
20. Your School Has Responsibilities To You
22. As School Year Starts
23. Shameful Decision By Betsy DeVos
24. Schools Need Help
To say that progressives on Twitter had a negative reaction to this news would be an understatement. DeVos herself released a "Dear Colleague" letter in concert with the announcement that the Obama-era guidelines were being overturned, aimed at explaining the decision and clarifying what it means going forward. In particular, DeVos asserted that the previous guidelines were unhelpful to both victims and the accused.
The 2011 and 2014 guidance documents may have been well-intentioned, but those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students—both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints. The guidance has not succeeded in providing clarity for educational institutions or in leading institutions to guarantee educational opportunities on the equal basis that Title IX requires. Instead, schools face a confusing and counterproductive set of regulatory mandates, and the objective of regulatory compliance has displaced Title IX’s goal of educational equity.
In short, schools throughout the United States will be facing a new regulatory structure and federal guidelines when it comes to sexual assault allegations, and plenty of people are plainly upset about it. The move does have its supporters, to be clear, and not just on the political right; even some progressives and centrists have voiced concerns over the old Obama administration guidelines.
But regardless, it is fair to say that this move, taken by an education secretary who reportedly met with some extremely anti-woman organizations ahead of the announcement, is being met with intense scrutiny and skepticism. And, of course, the fact that it's being enacted under President Donald Trump, who has himself been accused of various forms of sexual assault and predatory behavior by more than a dozen women. (Trump has repeatedly and aggressively denied all the allegations, calling his accusers "horrible liars" during his presidential campaign.)