Can Proposing Changes to Title IX Curb Sexual Assault in US Campuses?

Title X

More than teaching students what they require in order to work as a professional in the outside world, the US education university campuses have also been embroiled in sexual assault controversies. Therefore, new rules governing the sexual assault on college and university campuses might soon be made public.

As per the claims made by Secretary of Education Betsy deVos, the new law will bring back the lost balance and favor the accuser. The proposed regulations are based on Title IX, a 1972 law prohibiting “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.”

However, the move has raised concerns amongst women’s rights organizations, colleges, and campus activists, who state that the undertaking will demotivate victims from coming forward.

Back in 2011, the Obama Administration sent a “Dear Colleague” to higher education institutions, taking reference of the highly misunderstood report, which stated that about one in every five women were victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college.

The letter asked schools to make findings of sexual harassment and assault based on the evidence, rather than demanding “clear and convincing” parameter used in many campuses.

In response, the colleges and universities adopted grievance procedure as required, hired additional staff to support students and deal with title IX complaints. However, the efforts cried foul as no real response came forward. Some critics at that time also accused colleges of hiding the reality behind closed doors to protect their reputation and avoid scaring away donors.

Therefore, when the regulations are passed in lieu of the Title IX, the process will get more complicated. To file a complaint, a student who has already gone through the trauma of being sexually assaulted, will have to seek his/her way forward through a complicated investigatory process.

Meanwhile, for a student who completes the process, retaliation from the accused’s friend and rejection in society may still create an absurd environment for them to survive in. Consequently, the accused may also face non-acceptance from the society long before the allegations are proved right.

Ironically, the law is expected to work on an even narrower niche of harassment than the Dear Colleague letter. To be actionable, conduct can no longer be any “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”; it must be “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

The rules, however, give campuses the power to decide if they want to follow the preponderance of the evidence standard or the more difficult clear and convincing standard. Yet the most controversial change is that school, and not courts, will require to hold hearings with cross examination by attorneys permitted.

The new law is based on the phenomenon of making the standards flexible, yet the overhead costs have been hugely ignored, even when accepted that the present system is hugely flawed. Therefore, if Title IX makes headway to become a law, problems would only multiply for those dealing with traumatic conditions.

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