As of May 6, 2020, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made rather significant changes to Title IX regulations and how sexual assault should be handled on college campuses. To begin with, DeVos argued that the regulations under Obama’s presidency were denying due process to those who were accused of sexual misconduct. DeVos’ new regulations require the cross-examinations of the accuser. However, that considerably revictimizes the victim causing what Title IX Coordinators would call a “chilling effect,” which is what college campus Title IX coordinators do not want to do. Campus Title IX coordinators and investigators want to empower the victim. Cross-examining the victim would only put on more layers of unnecessary stress, anxiety, and/or trauma. The process of reporting is already tumultuous and can cause a great deal of exhaustion for the victim.
DeVos reported to CNN: “Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault. This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.”
However, what DeVos got wrong is that no college campus can be exactly “zero-tolerance policy.” After talking to my supervisor in the Roger Williams University Title IX office back in December 2019, Title IX Coordinator Jen Stanley said a Title IX office, no matter which university it is, needs to support the victim in a way that it is beneficial to where they are now in the “healing process,” and a Title IX office would be breaking the law if they didn’t. “We don’t know what’s coming in the [hopefully] resolved regulations regarding Title IX,” said Stanley at the time. If the policies at universities and colleges were to have zero-tolerance policies, there would be significant chilling effects. By empowering students, they have the ability to explore their resources both on and off-campus. In short, there are definitely some pros and cons regarding DeVos’ regulations.
Although the due process is enforced, that was already a part of the process of reporting. The big picture to all this is the victim’s access to human rights and their dignity. The question that remains while everyone processes these new regulations is, “will there be any point to reporting if school administrators don’t believe us?”