Title IX, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs, has received new attention after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reversed Title IX guidelines instituted by the Obama Administration.
DeVos rolled back Title IX guidelines that she said utilized a lower standard of for investigating those accused of sexual assault. While Obama-era guidelines lowered the standard to preponderance of evidence, DeVos has raised the standard.
The new interim Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct allows schools to enforce a stricter standard of evidence required to find the accused guilty, however, it is up to each individual university’s discretion whether or not to apply these standards.
According to the Q&A, released by the Department of Education, “in every investigation conducted under the school’s grievance procedures, the burden is on the school—not on the parties—to gather sufficient evidence to reach a fair, impartial determination as to whether sexual misconduct has occurred.
As Seton Hall reviews the new guidance from the Trump Administration, no significant changes to SHU’s policies are expected, according to Karen Van Norman, the University’s Title IX Deputy Compliance Coordinator and associate vice president and dean of students.
According to the Department of Education’s website, the previous guidelines fostered, “a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”
Van Norman said there remains a commitment to ensuring fairness and altering the culture where sexual misconduct occurs.
“The University is firmly committed to a process that is fair, equitable and respectful of all students – that is not going to change,” Van Norman wrote in an email. “As a University community, we are committed to changing the culture where sexual misconduct and violence can occur.
KNOW MORE, an organization dedicated to eradicating sexual violence through awareness and on-campus prevention workshops, firmly supports and understands the importance of Title IX.
Julia Hussey, KNOW MORE president and a sophomore social and behavioral science and occupational therapy double major, highlights the importance of empowering victims of sexual assault.
“Title IX provides an essential platform for the victims of sexual assault,” Hussey wrote in an email. “Mandating non-discriminatory resources for students should be a fundamental value for all institutions; it’s important to give the power back to all of those affected by sexual assault.”
Christian Milano, KNOW MORE ambassador and a sophomore business major, had a mixed reaction to DeVos’ actions. Originally, Milano was stunned by the Administration’s repeal of specific guidelines but understood DeVos’ decision after further reading.
“Originally, I was surprised because [the guidelines] helped students come forward, privately, without having to come to the authorities because it is a very difficult topic,” Milano said. “But I do understand where DeVos is coming from because the accused were not receiving the proper due process.”
Even though federal policy may change, the campus’ attitude toward campus assault remains unequivocally the same.
“We encourage students to get involved, speak out, and always report any incident of sexual misconduct,” Van Norman said.
Thomas Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.