The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint – DeVos creates more hurdles for survivors

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By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

Education secretary Betsy DeVos took a step in the wrong direction with sexual assault on college campuses.

She announced Sept. 22 she was rescinding the Obama administration’s guidelines on campus sexual assault to strengthen protections for accused students.

The latest study from RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, shows sexual assault is a major issue on college campuses.

To combat campus sexual assault, the Obama administration released the “Dear Colleague” letter. The letter provided guidance on Title IX, pushed for further accountability of universities and offered survivors options other than pursuing a criminal trial. It also set in place the “preponderance standard,” which requires 51 percent confidence that the accused is guilty. The changes made under Obama were made to make it easier for survivors to come forward, and many felt that school administrators were finally on their side.

Now, DeVos seeks to have schools less involved in the process.

In her remarks, DeVos said the Obama administration pressured schools to create systems that deny accused students their rights. However, the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard is used during criminal trials, and universities don’t have the same powers as criminal courts. They aren’t responsible for criminal punishment, but they are responsible for protecting equal education. Title IX cases fall under civil rights disputes in which the preponderance standard may be more appropriate. Also, sexual assault cases are often hard to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” with the majority of incidents occurring behind closed doors and with post-assault trauma making it difficult for survivors to relive their experiences in a courtroom.

Decreasing the role of universities in the process takes a step back in making sexual assault prevention a priority. While it’s important that the process is fair for students, taking away the progress that the Obama administration made sends a message that accused students are the priority, not survivors.

In a society struggling to combat rape culture, students who have experienced sexual violence already face countless hurdles to heal and seek justice as is. DeVos should not be creating more.

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