Amid more controversy coming out of the Donald Trump administration, the Department of Education plans to implement new Title IX guidelines across the nation.
Many critics believe that these regulations will completely strip schools of the ability to respond adequately to instances of sexual violence. It is currently estimated that roughly 25 percent of women experience sexual assault in college, with only 15 percent of those individuals formally reporting the incident. The current fear is that the revamped Title IX will exponentially widen that gap.
Some of the biggest changes that shirk institutional liability include the removal of mandated reporters, a required dismissal of complaints that occurred off campus or online, and a requirement of increased severity for cases to be addressed. These changes result in the limitation of instances of gender-based discrimination for which survivors can seek support from their academic institutions.
Montana Bass, the Health Education Paraprofessional in the Wellness Resource Center, points out that much of these regulations are based on non-truths.
“Betsy DeVos has propagated rhetoric that Title IX processes under the Barack Obama administration strip rights away for the accused, and she’s trying to reinstate due process,” Bass said. “That kind of rhetoric is very misplaced. At CC we have very fair processes that reflect Title IX as a civil rights law and are consistent with the rest of our student conduct proceedings.”
In terms of due process, changes include the removal of the 60-day timeframe in which investigations had to be completed in, an assumption of innocence of the accused, a higher standard of proof, live cross-examinations of survivors by the perpetrator’s advisor of choice, and unequal grounds for appeal. These changes reflect DeVos’ conflation of civil and criminal law. In civil law, both parties are seen as having equal credibility, so each side needs to show that their version of events is more likely than that of others. Assumption of innocence is not a part of civil cases. Title IX regards equal access to education which is a civil right.
Another myth propagated by the administration is that there is a huge problem with false accusations and reporting.
“The estimates for the percent of false reporting are around 2 and 6 percent … Men are more likely to be assaulted than they are to be falsely accused of rape,” Bass said. “So basing new regulations on that kind of myth is extremely dangerous in terms of tackling an issue like gender-based violence, which is pervasive in campus culture, ours included.”
The new regulations opened for comment on Nov. 26, and this period will conclude on Jan. 28. Both START and SOSS are developing comments for submission. Students interested in getting involved with this issue can email Bass at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other helpful resources can be found on knowyourix.org.
The changes to Title IX are much less survivor-oriented and will have far-reaching effects across the nation. President Jill Tiefenthaler issued a statement to the school reassuring that “we will continue our commitment to the values of honor, respect, and integrity, maintain consistency across all of our student conduct processes, and offer confidential resources for any students who need support.”