After more than a year of promising to change how schools handle sexual assault on college campuses, Education Secretary Betsy
DeVos released new proposed Title IX regulations on Friday morning that roll back many Obama-era guidelines. Per Vox, the new regulations operate on a narrower definition of sexual harassment and provide more protections for accused students, prompting concern from survivors and anti-assault organizations. The Washington Post reported that under DeVos' new guidelines, fewer allegations would actually be defined as sexual harassment, and schools would only have to investigate allegations within the realm of campus programming, meaning that off-campus incidents would not be included. Moreover, students accused of harassment would be entitled to lawyers and cross-examination, and schools can require a higher standard of evidence to prove an accused student's guilt.
According to The Huffington Post, the new regulations would also require college students to report sexual assault allegations directly to their school's Title IX coordinator if they want their school's protection. Although these new regulations will not immediately go into effect — and could change — survivors and anti-assault organizations issued statements to Bustle condemning DeVos' proposal as "troubling" and "dangerous," and suggesting that the new regulations would prioritize schools over survivors.
DeVos is making plain with these unlawful rules that she is turning her back on survivors. The results of this rule are clear: Fewer will report their assaults and harassment. Schools will be more dangerous. And, more survivors will be denied their legal right to equal access to education after experiencing sexual violence. Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are sending a clear message to survivors across the country with these disgraceful new rules: our dignity, humanity, and civil rights don't matter to them. The proposed rule changes to Title IX put forward today for public comment by the Department of Education once again demonstrate that Secretary DeVos and her team lack basic empathy for survivors and do not care about campus safety. The results of these proposed rules would be devastating. Survivors would have fewer viable pathways to achieve justice, and all students would be less safe as they pursue their education.
New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster
Sexual harassment and assault are already one of the most underreported crimes in our society and creating barriers for survivors will only serve to further increase the challenge of seeking justice. I am especially troubled by provisions that permit schools to lower their evidentiary standards as they investigate misconduct claims and set an excessively high bar for defining harassment. The research is clear: Campus sexual assault is widespread and devastating. Study after study has found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will experience sexual assault while in college. Secretary DeVos’ reported new guidance flies in the face of that evidence, emboldens victim-blaming attitudes and behaviors, fails survivors and parents, and will render our schools less safe.
Center for American Progress
This is a major step backwards in upholding the very purpose of Title IX — to eliminate sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. The administration’s actions incentivize schools to look the other way, silence survivors, and discourage efforts that stress taking responsibility for one’s actions. Students and schools deserve better.
North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams
Secretary DeVos's proposed ruling is a dangerous step backwards and is an egregious insult to victims of campus assault. This terrible decision will force victims into the shadows as it makes it harder for them to receive justice. It makes our campuses more unsafe and lets off the hook schools who fail to address dangerous situations on their grounds These proposals signal the Department of Education’s decision to prioritize schools’ bottom line over survivors’ right to an education. If these draft rules become law, more survivors will be forced out of school by harassment, assault, and their schools’ indifference to their complaints. Over the next 60 days, we strongly encourage students and survivors to submit comments expressing their opposition to the proposed rules. Survivors won’t let Betsy DeVos roll back our rights without a fight.
Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images In Michigan we saw a university system systematically overlook pervasive sexual assault and harassment as was seen in the case of Larry Nassar. These proposed changes to Title IX could encourage many cases of harassment and assault to fly under the radar. More specific requirements only give loopholes to schools to avoid taking responsibility. We must enhance avenues for survivors to be heard and supported.
Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images I am outraged by Secretary DeVos’ effort to weaken protections for survivors, making school more dangerous for survivors and ensuring it’s even more difficult to hold offenders responsible for their crimes. Enough barriers stand in the way of brave survivors coming forward and reporting. It’s despicable that Secretary DeVos, who is entrusted with the safety of our students, is hell-bent on making this wrenching experience even harder. There is a 60-day public comment period attached to this guidance, and you better believe women in Congress will have something to say.
As Moore and several others pointed out, DeVos' proposed rules will soon be open to public comment for a 60-day period. The Department of Education has said that
the public comment period would begin as soon as the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register.