UPDATE: What Betsy DeVos Means for Title IX
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ repeal of Obama-era guidance on September 22, 2017 poses to change how student conduct offices in higher education will manage sexual misconduct cases. Under DeVos’ leadership, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew the guidelines for handling cases of sexual misconduct put in place during the Obama-administration era. From the beginning of the Trump administration, these changes were anticipated and now have come to the forefront with temporary changes. But what does this mean for student conduct offices in higher education? Here’s what you need to know:
The Old Rules May or May Not Be Applied
Based on the previous guidelines, schools were obliged to evaluate sexual cases using a preponderance of the evidence. This is the most minimal standard of proof possible and is commonplace in civil law cases. Without putting this into action, schools chanced to losing Title IX federal funding. Title IX prohibits gender-based discrimination.
DeVos argued that the previous standard was too loose. She believes that the current process weakens accused students’ rights while demonstrating a preference for accusers of sexual misconduct. It lacked criminal court proof and evidence that was convincing and clear. The goal of Title IX funding is to accomplish fair access to educational benefits. DeVos’ change to the Obama-era guidelines now means that student conduct offices can apply either the previous standard or a burden of proof that is higher than what the previous standard allowed.
The Old Guidelines are Temporary
While DeVos’ change will have a definite impact on how sexual misconduct cases are handled, they are temporary adjustments. As of September 2017, DeVos is seeking input from the public regarding a new policy. Her goal is to implement a policy that would better serve schools and students. Student conduct offices must understand that this will be an opportunity to provide insight on the direction of new changes. However, it is also important to note that an impending change will occur again in the future.
With the recent appeal of the Title IX sexual misconduct guidelines, student conduct offices will have to approach sexual misconduct cases differently. That being said, meticulous Title IX tracking is still a requirement that is unlikely to go away. Institutions will still have to provide information and proof that they took action on a report of misconduct.