DeVos and Title IX

On September 7th, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that her department will be reevaluating federal campus sexual assault guidance brought about during the Obama administration. This review access investigate the degree to which the current guidelines allow, and in some instances encourage, colleges to deny due process to students accused of committing sexual assault. Despite backlash against what some considered an attack on Title IX rights, DeVos’s decision has met with substantial bipartisan support… and rightly so.  

Under the supervision of the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights, also known as the OCR, released guidelines that instructed colleges not to allow concern for their students’ due process rights to “restrict or unnecessarily delay the protections provided by Title IX.” Even great friends of the administration expressed misgivings about its blatant disregard for American legal ideals. Members of academia were particularly disturbed by the OCR’s action. In an open letter to the Boston Globe, Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz and Charles Ogletree wrote “We find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach.” These principles, namely due process rights and the presumption of innocence, are exactly the ideals that DeVos is endeavoring to protect. 

In her announcement, DeVos did not waste time condemning acts of sexual assault, stating firmly that “One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many.” She was equally swift and clear in expressing her position toward the current guidance declaring, “The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the victim only creates more victims.” This could not be truer, especially in light of the current climate towards sexual assault in American society.  

It is undeniable that in recent years, colleges have turned a blind eye to sexual assault on their campuses. Recognition for survivors of sexual assault has been a hard fought battle, and certainly no thinking person would like to see its outcome reversed. For the sake of both the accuser and the accused, all possible instances of sexual assault should be taken extremely seriously. When even entirely uncorroborated allegations of sexual can haunt a young man for rest of his life, they could not possibly be more serious. It is this seriousness that highlights the fact that the colleges, and certainly society, must not be cast in the role of judge, jury, and executioner. As citizens, the accused are afforded the right to due process under the law. We, as fellow citizens, can only hope that this law will be carried out by those who understand the paramount importance of the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof. Women more than any other group should hope for this. They should hope for this for their brothers and their male friends, but most of all for themselves. Correct legal processing will only add to the credibility of the fight against assault, not detract from it. Credibility is second only to prevention when trying to aid those affected by sexual assault. Women should be singing DeVos’s praises from the rooftops.