In a speech giving at George Mason University last Thursday, Betsy Devos announced the Department of Education would review an Obama era directive on how universities should address sexual assault.
Under Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 schools that receive federal funding are required to provide a safe learning environment safe from sexual assault or any other from of sex discrimination. The Obama era directive gave clear guidelines to how sexual assault cases should be handled by schools and universities and seeks to create an environment where victims are more likely to come forward.
Devos argued that the previous administration weaponized the civil rights department and failed to give the accused due process. She also stated that the current Department of Education would replace the current system with a “workable, effective and fair system” that more explicitly takes into account the accused’s rights.
Candice E. Jackson, the top civil rights at the Department of Education cited the accounts of several people who were “falsely” accused such as the student who was expelled after he put the “made up” name Sarah Jackson as the answer to a question asking who his lab instructor was. Sarah Jackson turned out to be a model and he was cited for giving an “inappropriate” answer that was intended to paint the instructor as a sex object.
Dr. Jaime Harker, director of the Sarah Isom Center For Women and Gender Studies and Professor of English is worried about what this could mean for Title IX.
“Part of this is a perception problem,” Harker said. “When they’ve done studies, there are a lot of folks that think that most rape accusations that are false and that this is all trumped up. What I know from statistics is that a vast majority of women and men who are sexually assaulted don’t report it. That there are way more assaults than we see convictions.”
Since the 2011 directive many groups have come forward to defend the accused. Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott is defending fraternities that feel like men are being unfairly targeted by this directive.
“To be fair they may honestly believe that these are trumped up false charges that they need to get legal protection from,” Harker said. “That may very well be their motivation, but I really believe making sure that consent is a value that is held accross all these organizations is a better way to address this.”