Sexual assault continues to be a widespread problem across higher education institutions in the United States. Over 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. These rates are especially higher among women of color and LGBTQ students. This may be out of fear of disbelief, stigma or multiple other reasons unique to the survivor. Title IX compliance is crucial in enabling students to report misconduct and receive justice.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' recently proposed regulations would change various aspects of sexual assault of Title IX compliance. According to the NCAA, the law states that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The new regulations proposed by DeVos, attempts to reduce the liability of schools for cases of sexual assault.
A few ways the law could change due to the proposed plan are outlined below:
Redefining Sexual Assult
The Obama administration had a broad definition of sexual assault defined as, “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”. DeVos' new definition gets more specific defining it as, “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”
Letting Schools Choose the Burden of Proof Required for Cases
The "preponderance of evidence" standard was used under the Obama administration, which DeVos' prepared modification would give greater discretion to universities in determining whether that standard or a higher standard such as "clear and convincing" evidence should be applied based on the nature of the claim. This would require there to be more proof of the incident, and may discourage survivors from reporting incidents.
New Report Requirements
Currently, students are free to report their sexual assault incidents to anyone, such as advisors at their school or their parents. The school is required to investigate the situation when it is made aware, or even when they should reasonably know the incident happened. DeVos' guidance will direct reports to appropriate school officials on campus, with certain procedural requirements to ensure consistency.
Congress is divided on the overall benefits and disadvantages of the proposed modifications to both plaintiffs and defendants on college campuses. Our job here at Symplicity is to ensure our software gives our clients the ability to fill the requirements of Title IX as they ensure and provide all users of our Symplicity Advocate with a safe and secure, easy to use system.
DeVos' proposed changes can threaten the reality of sexual violence on campus by ultimately reducing how Title IX cases get reported and adjudicated - yet, universities still need a system to properly track and manage cases of student misconduct to guarantee the safety of their students and avoid any potential OCR violations.
Advocate by Symplicity is the trusted solution for student conduct, Title IX, and behavioral intervention management used by over 400 universities and organizations worldwide. Advocate allows you to apply a holistic approach to case management and keep all institution stakeholders involved in making campus safety the #1 priority.