Education secretary DeVos plans changes for campus sexual assault cases

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced that changes will be made to Obama-era guidance for colleges dealing with sexual assault and rape claims, after meeting with both survivors and men falsely accused of rape.

This issue is hurting too many students. We’ll get to work to figure out the best way to solve this problem,” DeVos said.

The existing guidelines, issued in 2011, attached cases of sexual violence to the gender-equality measures of Title IX and threatened to withdraw federal funding from institutions that did not cut down on rape and assault.

It also lowered the standard of proof for campus disciplinary hearings from the court level of “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the “preponderance of evidence,” according to Politico.

DeVos did not provide details of the forthcoming changes, which were confirmed after “emotional” meetings with survivors, university officials and men who had been falsely accused.

Those meetings were protested by supporters of the 2011 rules, some of whom were survivors of sexual violence.

Part of the controversy around altering those guidelines stems from comments made earlier this week by DeVos’ acting civil rights chief, Candice Johnson.

“The accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Johnson said.

She has since apologized for those remarks, calling them “flippant” and “poor characterizations” of her meetings with safety advocates.

“There’s no way to take it back, unfortunately,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center.

“It’s been put out there. The only thing they can do now is exercise the leadership and spend a lot of time rejecting the rape myths they propagated this week,” she added.

Some activists were also upset by the education secretary’s decision to meet with the National Coalition for Men and Families Advocating for Campus Equality, both of which represent individuals — almost always men — who claim to have been falsely accused of rape.

A group of 114 individuals claiming to be “survivors of sexual assault” wrote in an op-ed for Teen Vogue with the question, “Who are you here to serve?”

But DeVos was quick to assure them that “we can’t go back to the days when allegations were swept under the rug” and that she would be holding additional meetings with affected groups throughout the country.

It’s clear that there are failings in this process. A system without due process protections ultimately serves no one in the end,” she said.

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