Secretary of education plans to update Title IX guidelines

By: Olivia Wile, Editor
Twitter: o_wile
Email: wileo@findlay.edu

From the Duke Lacrosse team case in 2006, to the conviction of Stanford Swimmer, Brock Turner, last year, instances of sexual misconduct continue to prove an issue on college campuses.

Whether they receive national attention, such as the cases just listed, or not, it is critical for colleges and universities to handle such instances in the most sensitive and effective ways possible.

On Thursday, Sept. 7, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her plan to revise the Title IX guidelines for college campuses. As no concrete timeline or plan of action has been established, it will be interesting to see when and how the revisions will impact the University of Findlay.

For those unaware, the Education Amendments Act of 1972, or Title IX, states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In April 2011, President Barack Obama’s Department of Education released a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter in which instructed colleges and universities how to deal with such cases. The document urged schools to consider as little proof possible when dealing with student sexual assault cases, allow accusers to fight non-guilty verdicts as well as discouraged the cross-examinations of accusers.

As it was the goal in 2011 for the Former President to reinforce the way colleges deal with Title IX cases, seven years later Betsy DeVos plans to do the same.

In the article, “DeVos says she’ll rescind Obama’s Title IX sexual assault guidelines” on CBS.com, DeVos states her department plans to develop guidelines that will continue to protect victims of sexual misconduct, but also guarantee fair hearings for the accused.

Without a clear path in sight, DeVos herself admits it will take time to adjust the standing guidelines. However, this has not stopped critics from talking.
In his article on thinkprogress.org, Joshua Eaton quotes President of the National Women’s Law Center Fatima Gross Graves in calling DeVos’ plans “a blunt attack on survivors of sexual assault.” Although I do not believe this was the intention, I can see how individuals could see it as such.

It does not help matters that Betsy DeVos is no stranger to criticism, either. With her wealthy background, and detachment from public schooling, the new Secretary of Education has already received a lot of backlash.

Through voicing concerns about fair trials for the accused, I can see how DeVos comes across as desensitizing sexual assault. Although, once again, I do not feel this was her intention, with so much grey area that surrounds these cases it is virtually impossible not to provoke a response. I rationalize with both victims and activists as I too was a bit surprised to read that our new Secretary of State is turning her attention to those who are accused with these new guidelines.

As this announcement was made very recently, it is too early to tell what they will entail. One thing is for sure, campuses around the country, including UF, have the potential to be impacted.

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