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DeVos hints at Title IX changes

Betsy DeVos expressed her concern that "due process" has not been given in many sexual assault situations in U.S. campuses.
Betsy DeVos expressed concern that “due process” has not been given in many sexual assault situations on U.S. campuses.

In a speech to faculty and students at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed the way campuses handle sexual misconduct allegations. She believes a change is needed in the way these situations are currently being handled under Title IX.

“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said.

Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 during the Nixon Administration. It “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”

Dr. Matthew Olsen, ORU’s Title IX Coordinator, said that the law consists of 37 words. It does not provide many guidelines. He said it created equal opportunity for women and men in athletic programs and has continued to expand over the years. Title IX affects institutions of higher education that receive federal funds.

“If they don’t follow this law, then they can remove Title IX funds or federal funds. A university like ORU that receives Pell grants, loans from the government, receive sfederal funding,” said Olsen.

Olsen explained that these guidelines come from the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education.

“In 2011, the Obama administration, the Office of Civil Rights under the Department of Education issued what they called a dear colleague letter,” Olsen said. “It provided guidelines to say…sexual assault falls under Title IX jurisdiction. Not just equality of sports, but now sexual assault would actually diminish an individual’s right to receive a quality, fair education.”

Complaints concerning misconduct on college campuses are filed with OCR, which “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination.” According to their website, “OCR also conducts proactive investigations, known as compliance reviews, to examine potential systemic violations based on sources of information other than complaints.”

DeVos said schools have handled assault and harassment situations by using “broad definitions” and have not given “due process” to students involved. She said the problem surfaces in cases where schools act quickly and punishment occurs before a “fair decision” is made.