These Facts About Title IX & Betsy DeVos Explain Why Survivors Are So Outraged
During a highly anticipated speech on Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her plan to rescind Obama-era Title IX policies on how college campuses handle sexual assault allegations. "The era of 'rule by letter' is over," DeVos said, referring to the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the Obama administration that provided college campuses with guidelines on how to handle allegations, and how to combat the hostile campus environments fostered by sexual harassment. Since announcing her decision to overhaul these guidelines, DeVos hasn't proposed any new policies, but here are the facts about DeVos' decision to roll back Title IX protections.
According to Fortune, DeVos saw three main problems with the Obama-era policies. First, she criticized what she perceived as the lack of due process in the legislation. "The accused must know that guilt is not predetermined," DeVos said, arguing that those accused of sexual assault should only face consequences if they are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Then, DeVos argued that school administrators are not necessarily qualified to act as judges and juries when handling sexual assault cases. Finally, she claimed that schools are wasting time collecting data about sexual assault cases when they could be spending that time trying to implement policies to combat assault.
DeVos' response to these perceived problems essentially hinges on a "both sides" argument; she wants to give more weight to the experiences of those accused of sexual assault. This is a dangerous argument, because it attempts to equivocate the experiences of sexual assault survivors with those who are accused of assault or harassment.
“We know this much to be true: One rape is one too many; one assault is one too many; one aggressive act of harassment is one too many; one person denied due process is one too many,” DeVos said during her speech. "One student’s rights cannot be paramount to the rights of another."
However, it is important to note that the Obama administration's Title IX guidelines on campus sexual assault will not disappear overnight. Instead, according to BuzzFeed News, Americans will first be given an opportunity to argue for or against the guidelines by commenting on how schools currently handle sexual assault cases. This process will likely take a long time, but Devos and the Department of Education will ultimately make the final call on whether to maintain or eliminate the 2011 guidelines.
Candice Jackson, a DeVos deputy who is currently in charge of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, is reportedly studying different ways to proceed, according to BuzzFeed News. Jackson has primarily been looking at two different reports: one from an American Bar Association committee that examined the effectiveness of various policies on the handling of sexual assault cases, and one from civil rights attorney Alexandra Brodsky, which focused on finding common ground between advocates for survivors and students who are accused of assault.
DeVos, however, did not introduce any new concrete policies in her announcement, nor did she explain how exactly her department plans to address campus sexual assault other than by rolling back the Obama-era guidelines. Instead, she simply said that the Obama administration's "good intentions" were "not enough," and that the Trump administration was still looking for "a better way” to handle the issue.