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Here's How Betsy DeVos Reportedly Wants to Redefine Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

August 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

The new proposal, as described by the New York Times, is the latest from the Trump administration in a pattern of hostility to survivors.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is considering a significant rollback of federal guidelines for sexual misconduct on college campuses, which would protect the accused and the institutions and while limiting recourse for many victims.

The changes would reportedly include redefining sexual misconduct from “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity,” a considerably more narrow definition.

The changes would also mean colleges and universities would only legally be required to respond to reports if officials have “actual knowledge” and only if the alleged incidents took place directly on campus — incidents involving faculty or students in off-campus housing would be excluded.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill stressed that these leaked details are “premature and speculative” and that none of the changes have been finalized. However, they appear to represent the latest in a pattern of hostility that DeVos' department has shown to the legal rights of victims of sexual incidents.

Early in her tenure, DeVos, a billionaire GOP donor who has no training in either education or civil rights, met to discuss the issue with the National Coalition of Men — an extreme anti-feminist group that routinely attacks rape and domestic violence survivors. And she staffed her department's civil rights division with sexual assault denialists like Candice Jackson, who has claimed that “90 percent” of campus sexual assault cases “fall into the category of 'we were both drunk'.”

Last September, DeVos rescinded requirements that colleges and universities use a preponderance standard when investigating sexual assault, and that investigations of complaints be completed within 60 days. She also urged schools to allow accused rapists to interrogate survivors directly, ban survivors from appealing the decisions of …read more


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