Students respond to proposed Title IX changes

Lamar Ellis
November 18, 2018

College campuses will more closely resemble the rest of American society under the U.S. Department of Education's proposed rules for handling sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations.

Another significant change is that colleges would be required to investigate only those allegations that occur on campus or in areas the school oversees, and only if an allegation was properly reported to specific officials.

The University of IL says it will ask working groups "representing every constituency" from its three campuses to review proposed new regulations from the U.S. Department of Education on how colleges should handle student sexual-misconduct complaints.

The move to rework guidelines put in place during the Obama administration is aimed at college campuses and universities, where one in four women who are seniors say they have experienced unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college, according to the latest government survey.

The rules - which are decidedly more formal than the Obama-era guidelines that DeVos rescinded a year ago - add protections for accused students. But the process of directly interrogating someone who has experienced sexual assault is often daunting enough to re-traumatize them - or deter them from reporting it altogether.

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education by schools that receive federal funding.

"Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment", DeVos said in a news release. "They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function". More than a third of students who have been sexually assaulted drop out of school, indicating that sexual violence is a major factor in equal access to educational opportunities.Some advocates said the rule follows an administration pattern reinforced by Senate Republicans: a total disregard for addressing sexual assault.

Those procedural changes are important, said attorney Andrew Miltenberg of NY, who has represented more than 100 students accused of sexual misconduct.

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A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on the threats against DeVos, but a former spokeswoman for one of her predecessors said the former education secretary Arne Duncan had received death threats but did not use Marshals' protection.

"The biggest change that they are proposing a right of direct cross-examination from an attorney to a student".

Now posted online, the proposals are subject to public comment for 60 days. Convictions may also require the accuser's team to meet the clear-and-convincing standard of evidence, not the far lower bar of preponderance-of-the-evidence. In other words, to avoid liability, a university with "actual knowledge" of sexual harassment need only respond in a manner that is not "deliberately indifferent".

DeVos has faced heated protests during her tenure, including on the issue of Title IX protections.

No. The new standard does not require victims to show that they can't return to school.

That definition would be significantly more hard to prove because the victim would have to prove the misconduct prevents them from returning to school.

"Really the basic concern is how do you make sure that we're reaching the right decision and assuring due process and also proceeding in a way that both parties are comfortable with, that isn't re-traumatizing to people and that is fair". The Obama era rules allowed the equivalent of a sexual harassment trial for anything someone took offense at, including suggestive speech.

Cynthia P. Garrett, co-president of a group called "Families Advocating for Campus Equality", said she's been pushing for numerous changes included in the latest proposal because they give students accused of misconduct better opportunities to defend themselves.

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