WASHINGTON-Betsy DeVos has long been expected to make a controversial announcement regarding Title IX but many are wondering whether the criticism she’s received in the aftermath is misguided. DeVos revealed to students and faculty at George Mason University on Thursday that the Department of Education will be reviewing Obama era guidelines regarding sexual assaults on campuses. Many of DeVos’ critics are making the unfounded argument that she is protecting rapists or those accused of sexual misconduct but a deeper glance at the situation reveals that rape apology isn’t what this is about. Like many early moves from the Trump administration, this is a rollback of regulatory practices that are ineffective and detrimental to the cause.
Let’s start with this: Title IX isn’t going anywhere. Title IX, implemented as part of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 is inherently uncontroversial and simple. The law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”. Title IX serves as a legal protection to ensure that academic institutions engages in practices that maintains equality among gender lines.
Title IX like any policy concept, is capable of being corrupted by poor implementation or overreaching bureaucracy and that’s exactly what’s happened under the Obama administration.
In 2011, in sync with a speech Vice-President Joe Biden made at the University of New Hampshire, the Office of Civil Rights sent a 19-page letter to campuses in the U.S. that served as guidelines regarding the way sexual assault policy was supposed to intersect with Title IX. Obama added more guidelines in 2014 as an attempt to resolve the confusion from the original directive. Both efforts have failed. Not only has college sexual assault statistics remained at alarming levels but schools seem to be in an administrative crisis handling accusations.
DeVos described this effort as well intentioned but ultimately one that falls short of addressing a problem with sexual violence that DeVos herself agrees is an issue. She’s not alone in this opinion. We’re aware that conservatives inherently hate over regulatory measures especially ones expanding the federal government but progressives have also taken issue with Obama’s guidelines.
Feminist legal theorist Janet Halley wrote a scathing analysis of Obama’s Title IX directive published in the Harvard Law Review in 2015 saying that the new system would “creative false positives” that masks the underlying issues relating to a university’s ability to curtail such violence. Not only did Halley write that the process prompted by OCR would trample on the rights of the accused but that it would create problems by ignoring needs of the victim in lieu of proving that campus administrative staff is committed to the new standards.
Halley’s suggestion back in 2015 is that Title IX offices should play a role of compliance monitors as opposed prying itself into university behavioral practices by removing their involvement in adjudicating cases. DeVos could create such a system or modify Obama’s lengthy reforms in a number of ways. What DeVos does remains to be seen but hysteria caused by the resistance crowd over her announcement has already begun.
DeVos isn’t taking aim at Title IX. Title IX is a one sentence law that every American agrees should exist. Devos is however trying to resolve the problem that arises when there are hundreds of pages of guidance that colleges and universities must abide by or face fear of losing federal funding or a lawsuit.
Obama’s Title IX changes, were supposed to address alarming statistics regarding sexual assault on college campuses but instead its only served to confuse school administrators. In October of 2014 twenty-eight professors at Harvard University signed an open letter to the school opposing the school’s regarding sexual misconduct. Their complaint was that the Department of Education’s overreach lacked fairness, due process and stacked considerable odds against the accused.
Despite the criticisms, confusion, and ineffectiveness behind Obama’s regulatory reaction to statistics, a litany of progressive figures are already torching DeVos for simply announcing that the Department would be reviewing Obama’s guidelines.
Californian Gubernatorial Candidate Gavin Newsome said that DeVos is “willing to sacrifice protections for sexual assault victims” despite there being no proof that Obama’s guidelines have done anything to curtail such violence on campuses.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said this decision by DeVos will make campuses less safe. How? There hasn’t been a single study about how Obama’s guidelines have positively impacted statistically regarding sexual assault on campuses.
It remains unclear how DeVos will reverse Office of Civil Rights guidelines regarding campuses and assault but pundits bashing her over the decision to review the guidelines are making matters worse.
Discussions of policy have been improperly framed ever since President Trump’s inauguration but the fact that we’re framing DeVos as a rape apologist proves that there is no end to lowering the bar of policy debates.
“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students. Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved” DeVos said regarding OCR guidelines pushed by Obama.
The OCR is currently investigating hundreds of colleges for their handling of sexual misconduct cases. Some of these cases are mere instances where professors have used profanity in lecture. This kind of bureaucratic overreach should be a concern to all Americans not just small-government advocates.