Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a repeal to Obama era Title IX rulings. Recently the detailed Dear College Letter was replaced by DeVos’s seven-page adjustments that strive to provide equitable advantages for the accused.
“Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on,” DeVos said in a statement Friday. “But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.” The revisions to Title IX are detrimental to the victim because it embraces rape culture among college campuses, deters students from reporting assaults and gives assailants the opportunity to avoid punishments.
Previously, the Dear College Letter required a “preponderance of the evidence.” To be proven guilty there had to be evidence that the accused “more likely than not” committed an assault. Sexual assault and consent are hard to prove since most assaults are done by people who are close the victim and in a place familiar to the victim. Secondly, the wide spectrum of assaults typically provides little to no evidence because sexual behavior is private. If a victim is assaulted and acts quickly they might only be able to prove that a sexual incident occurred. A sexual incident can be well documented, but since consent is ambiguous, proving it can be difficult.
DeVos believes that schools are overreaching in their search for evidence. She replaced “preponderance of evidence” with a “clear and convincing amount of evidence.” This is to ensure the rights of the accused are accounted for, but this benefits the accused because assault in nature is something that is difficult to prove. It also deters victims from attempting to report their case because victims feel powerless in attempts to find direct evidence. Therefore, the limited amount of evidence provided should be enough to prove assault. Evidence should be completely evaluated to ensure the safety and education of the student.
Another revision is investigations originally had a sixty-day limit to search for evidence and find a verdict. Now this time period is described as a “good-faith effort.” This vague time allowance provides more room to investigate, rather than rushing the case which could be negative for both parties. Sixty days would allow a case to drag on and the accused will graduate, drop out or transfer schools avoiding all possible punishments. A sixty-day investigation gives the opportunity for new and valuable evidence to arise for both parties.
Schools can now decide if the accused is allowed to appeal the ruling and the accuser is denied their right to appeal the verdict. If the accused is found guilty, the school has the power to decide if he can appeal the verdict and reinvestigate the case. Therefore, giving the accused more power than the accuser. If the accused is not found guilty, the case will not be reviewed and continue their behavior on campus. Many Republicans believed that this was important to encourage due process like the justice system. The accused cannot be found guilty twice for a crime they aren’t found guilty for.
I am all for due process. I understand that some accusers might have false claims and have motives to harm the accused by using the system. I understand that the accused should have the right to defend his or her actions. The adjustments to Title IX do not balance the scales. It only hurts the victims who should have nothing but support. Title IX exists because the justice system fails and has flaws. It is a civil rights document, altering it against the victims is a manipulation of civil rights. The purpose of it was to protect students from discrimination and harboring a safe learning environment.
I understand that America’s justice system relies heavily on evidence, but Title IX is not a branch of the justice system. Title IX is a civil rights portion that is intended to educate campuses and prevent sexual assault. According to DeVos, the accused “feel like they are going to a case already guilty before its proven.” This makes the accused feel as if the system and odds are stacked against them; many victims disagree.
It’s easy to argue that in today’s society there is a tolerance for the overwhelming amount of sexual assault, which makes reporting abusive behavior seem like the wrong decision. Many girls have a high tolerance for assault, while some grow up with the sting of sexual assault but refuse to accept it as sexual assault because it happens all the time or they knew their assailant personally. History of victim blaming and rape culture is stacked against victims. We live in a culture that believes women who put themselves at risk deserve to be assaulted. This old-man logic is starting to fade away slowly, but new adjustments that protect the accused may stop progressive attitudes.
Adjustments should be made to current Title IX. Currently, one issue is that many accused can transfer schools before or after the verdict is given to avoid punishments. The university they transfer to has no way of knowing the student was in violation at the previous school. Some schools will mark on the accused’s transcript that they had some disciplinary action, however, this does not entirely deter the student’s acceptance to transfer and avoid sanctions. Rules should be enforced which don’t allow a student to withdraw or transfer while a Title IX investigation is still in the process of being resolved. Doing so will allow for a fair trial and punishment to take place and ensures justice for the victim, which I hope even DeVos can get behind.