The way colleges handle sexual assault accusations may be about to change dramatically. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said last week that she plans to overhaul Obama administration guidelines on how colleges adjudicate claims of sexual assault or harassment brought under Title IX, a federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination. Anti-feminist groups, political conservatives, and many concerned with due process and the rights of the accused cheered. Feminists and anti-rape activists were quickly on defense, arguing for the necessity of the Obama-era guidelines to protect assault survivors.
How we best protect students from assault while also holding firm to our principles of fairness and justice – even outside of a courtroom – is a question of great urgency, and the DeVos Department of Education is unfortunately a particularly ill-suited vehicle for necessary change. But that doesn’t mean we should step back. DeVos has opened up a period to comment on proposed policies and help shape them, and feminists and defenders of due process should do this work with care and compassion.
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