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November 16, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' revamped campus sexual assault plans, more than a year in the making, are here.

DeVos has long sought to bolster the rights of college students accused of sexual assault, officially announcing her intent to revamp Obama-era rules last September. Those new rules, which Devos said "ensur[e] a fair grievance process," were unveiled Friday.

Under former President Barack Obama's administration, Title IX, the law that outlaws gender discrimination in schools, was implemented in a way that was meant to strengthen the power of sexual assault victims. But DeVos argued that premise in September 2017, saying Obama-era policies have "failed too many students" because the "rights of one person can never be paramount to the rights of another."

This new proposal reflects that same stance. Obama-era rules required colleges to investigate any "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," NPR notes. But the DeVos policy redefines sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" that it disrupts a student's learning environment, per Friday's statement. The new rules also rely heavily on "a presumption of innocence throughout the grievance process," and require schools hold "live hearing[s]" featuring "cross-examination."

Jess Davidson, executive director of End Rape on Campus, told Politico "this rule will return schools back to a time where rape, assault, and harassment were swept under the rug." A previous Education Department analysis showed these changes would cut sexual harassment inquiries by 39 percent, saving up to $400 million over the next decade. The publication of this proposal opens up a 60-day public comment period. Read the whole plan here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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