What You Need To Know About The Changes To Campus Sexual Assault Rules

 

The U.S. Education Department announced September 22 that it is formally repealing Obama-era guidelines on how schools ought to handle sexual assaults under Title IX federal law.

Originally enacted in 1972, Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be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 other words, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex for schools and programs that receive federal funding. While it’s best known for ensuring the equal treatment of both male and female athletes, Title IX includes important protections in the areas of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Earlier this month, Education Secretary Betsy Devos sparked controversy when she first announced that her department was in the process of reviewing and rolling back the existing Title IX policy on campus sexual assault. Devos cited concerns that the existing policy denied due process to the accused.

"One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many," DeVos said while addressing a crowd at George Mason University.

Now that the repeal process of the campus sexual assault guidelines has been confirmed, it more important than ever that college students understand their rights under Title IX.

The “Dear Colleague” Letter

In 2011, the Obama administration released a directive on campus sexual violence known as the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. The comprehensive set of guidelines clearly outlined an institution’s responsibility under the law to enforce Title IX.

The letter discussed requirements for how schools need to handle student-on-student sexual harassment and emphasized the need for schools to take active steps towards ending sexual violence on campus.

From publishing a notice of nondiscrimination to requiring institutions to have adequately trained Title IX coordinators, the Dear Colleague letter reminded schools of their legal obligation to ethically investigate and handle sexual assault and rape cases.

Many students appreciated that the Dear Colleague letter was easy to access online and to comprehend so that they could utilize the document to hold their institutions accountable.

The Dear Colleague letter was called into question under Devos because it does not include guidelines to help the alleged attacker, leading some to argue that the letter poses a threat to the procedural rights of accused students.

The current administration has formally withdrawn the “Dear Colleague” Letter.

Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct

The administration has released an interim explanation of the department’s campus sexual assault guidelines – the Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct – that offers recommendations on how schools should respond and outlines what schools are obligated to do in response to allegations.

One big change that is outlined in the Q&A is that institutions will now have the option to either allow both the accuser and the accused to appeal a sexual assault case decision or to only allow the accused to appeal. Essentially, a college now has the option to only allow the accused party to appeal a decision against them and not to allow their accuser to have the same right.

Despite the repeal of Title IX guidelines, at E-town, we reaffirm our commitment to a respectful, discrimination-free campus.