Education Sec. Betsy DeVos today announced changes to the Department's Title IX policy on sexual misconduct. These changes are overdue.
While Title IX was enacted in 1972 with good intentions, it has become a vehicle for abuse. The statute's language simply states that no one in the U.S. can be denied educational opportunities on the basis of sex. Sadly, under the Obama Administration, bureaucrats issued "Dear Colleague" letters to universities and colleges in the U.S. with guidelines for how to handle sexual misconduct cases on campus. These guidelines changed the standard of proof from "clear and convincing" to a "preponderance of evidence" standard, tilting these cases (handled by college tribunals) and putting accused students at a disadvantage. Describing this phenomenon, Sec. DeVos said today, "Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today."
But, in welcome remarks, Sec. DeVos also said today, "The era of rule by letter is over." The Department of Education is going to open Title IX sexual misconduct policy up to a transparent public notice and comment period. This is an effort to ensure that the rights of the accused are balanced with the other priorities that colleges and universities face in combatting sexual assault on campus. Sec. DeVos mentioned several ideas for how to change the policy, including allowing Title IX investigations and adjudications to be handled regionally in participation with local law enforcement and state attonerys general.
Sec. DeVos has been an outspoken and active Education Secretary. Her nomination and extremely close confirmation vote (with the 51st vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence), along with her strong support of issues like school choice, have made her a target for those on the left who disagree with her leadership. That's understandable. But Title IX reform should not be a partisan issue. Many legal experts, including some of Harvard's Law School faculty, have criticized the current Title IX policy, which has led to ridiculous and devastating results.
We all want to combat sexual misconduct on campus. No one wants students to feel intimidated or unable to report violations to the appropriate authorities, and perpetrators should face the harshest punishments possible. But the status quo harms wrongly accused students and survivors alike, and it's time for a serious review.
To watch all of Sec. DeVos's comments from today, click the video below: