The Gatepost Editorial Board
Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a rollback of an Obama-era Title IX policy that focuses on providing support to college students who are subject to sexual assault.
According to DeVos, the current policy unfairly penalizes those accused of assault and does not provide “due process” for all parties involved.
We at The Gatepost are in support of due process, but we cannot support DeVos’ rollback of Obama’s important Title IX policy, as her decision may work to weaken established guidelines that provide vital sexual assault support on campuses nationwide, FSU’s included. According to the Department of Education website, approximately 7,000 post-secondary institutions must be Title IX compliant.
Enacted in 1972, Title IX prohibits any federally funded educational institution to practice any form of sex discrimination. Under this law, schools have a legal obligation to address sexual assault cases that get reported. Additionally, this means schools can’t exclude students from participating in educational activities, as well as extracurriculars, solely on the basis of their sex. If schools don’t follow Title IX’s rules, they risk losing funding.
In 2011, the Department of Education issued an official letter to public institutions providing specific guidance on the law. This Title IX document serves as a comprehensive roadmap schools are required to use for addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. Detailed in the document is the importance of faculty sexual assault training and proper sexual assault investigation methods.
With DeVos’ rollback announcement, major portions of that document are likely to be rewritten or scrapped altogether.
What DeVos fails to see is that “due process” is already at the forefront of current Title IX guidance for everyone involved, including those accused of sexual assault.
The Obama administration guidance is the first comprehensive document that successfully addresses sexual assault and harassment on college campuses.
At FSU, if a student is accused of sexual assault or harassment, they are able to have an academic advisor or lawyer present for any meetings regarding the alleged incident of assault, according to Kim Dexter, FSU’s Title IX director.
They are also given access to a campus process advocate, a designated person who helps explain the investigation process.
Like survivors, those accused have a legal right to tell their side of their story. They are allowed to read any documentation that will be used to investigate the case, and they are allowed to invite witnesses to speak on their behalf and vouch for them.
Rather than eradicate the Obama-era guidance, we at The Gatepost urge the Department of Education to build on the previous administration’s guidelines.
There is still much work to be done to provide adequate support for those subjected to sexual assault, especially college students. According to a 2015 National Sexual Violence Resource Center study, one out of every five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while at college and 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses don’t file a report.
Even with the current Title IX guidelines, sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. To dismantle this legislation would turn back the clock.