Feminists are melting down at the news the Trump education department plans to ensure those accused of sexual misconduct on campus will be entitled to due process.
In September 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released interim Title IX guidance that withdrew the 2011 Obama-era “Dear Colleague” letter on campus sexual violence.
The letter discouraged the use of police investigations as primary because of their higher standards for criminal evidence and threatened schools with a loss of Title IX funding if they did not conduct their own investigations into sexual misconduct complaints that favored the alleged victims.
“[W]hen taking steps to separate the complainant and alleged perpetrator, a school should minimize the burden on the complainant,” the Obama administration stated.
The education department will hold a public comment period before the new rules are announced. DeVos has already conducted listening sessions with survivors of sexual misconduct, campus administrators, parents, students falsely accused of sexual misconduct, and experts on the issue.
“Most alarming,” writes Abby Gardner at Glamour, is that “changes to federal policy on campus sexual misconduct will bolster the rights of the accused.”
“The rules … would also encourage schools to provide more support for victims, but considering DeVos’ track record with education policy—especially when it comes to rolling back protections for victims of sexual assault and harassment—that’s not exactly confidence inspiring,” she adds.
Gardner cites likely 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, who warned changes to the Obama policies will “jeopardize student safety”:
Without the Title IX guidance, student safety is jeopardized.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 22, 2017
The proposed new rules were leaked to the New York Times last week. Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the education department, said the department was “in the midst of a deliberative process” and that information leaked to the Times “is premature and speculative, and therefore, we have no comment.”
The Times stated the proposed rules “narrow the definition of sexual harassment, holding schools accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses.”
“They would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints,” reported the newspaper.
At the Mary Sue, Chelsea Steiner warns that DeVos “wants to protect everyone involved in sexual misconduct EXCEPT the victims.”
She claims DeVos’s proposal to change the Obama administration’s definition of sexual misconduct as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” essentially means just about all sexual conduct will now be permissible.
“So don’t worry, students; unless a lecherous professor is literally blocking the door of his classroom with his boner, you’ve got nothing to complain about,” Steiner writes.
Robby Soave, associate editor at Reason, however, asserts the Obama-era definition “was simply too broad, and imperiled speech that is obviously protected under the First Amendment, like giving a wrong answer on a quiz, or making a joke, or using a gendered salutation.”
Steiner complains further:
But wait! It gets worse. The education secretary, who has endorsed a policy of using mediation to reach informal resolutions in cases of campus assault, wants to allow victims and their accused perpetrators to request any evidence they want from each other. In addition, victims and perpetrators would be able to cross-examine each other during the mediation.
Yahoo’s Elise Solé also finds the proposed mediation process — and the fact that a higher burden of proof of misconduct will be encouraged — unacceptable.
“Betsy DeVos’s new college plan allows alleged sexual offenders to demand proof from their victims,” is the headline of Solé’s article, in which she bemoans the secretary is “introducing new measures to colleges and universities that would, among other changes, allow people accused of sexual misconduct to cross-examine their victims and request evidence.”
RT @knowyourIX "The only good news on DeVos's garbage proposed rules on Title IX is that they aren't law yet. It's time to take action and fight back. Watch and share this video so you can understand what the notice and comment process is, and how to" https://t.co/HmYH7obHVw
— End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) September 4, 2018
Jess Davidson, executive director of End Rape on Campus, told HuffPost, “What is reflected in the Times article is a tacit endorsement of campuses where it is safer to commit sexual assault than to be a survivor.”
— End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) September 4, 2018
Similarly, Sage Carson, manager of Know Your IX, told HuffPost the new rules are “really just saying that ‘it doesn’t matter that you were assaulted three minutes off campus. You still have to share a classroom with your rapist. And you don’t have any rights.”
While DeVos made herself clear that “acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable,” she nevertheless asserted, “The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” referring to the Obama “Dear Colleague” letter.
The secretary added:
Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach. With the heavy hand of Washington tipping the balance of her scale, the sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today.
This unraveling of justice is shameful, it is wholly un-American, and it is anathema to the system of self-governance to which our Founders pledged their lives over 240 years ago.
The Daily News’s editorial board says due process is exactly what is needed to put an end to the “kangaroo courts” that have erupted on college campuses:
Today, the accused have no way to see the evidence against them, no way to appeal. Tomorrow, they are likely to be able to cross-examine accusers, and vice versa.
The hands wringing that fair procedures will terrify young women out of reporting serious violations ought to be applauding efforts to make Title IX a credible tool to vindicate victims.
“[T]he idea that a person accused of sexual misconduct deserves some opportunity to scrutinize his accuser’s claims, or at the very least compel an administrator to do so, shouldn’t be seen as wildly controversial,” he said.