Local colleges react to possible Title IX changes
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Local colleges are reacting to Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed review and plans to rescind Obama era Title IX guidelines.
The University of Notre Dame and Indiana University at South Bend released statements regarding the news.
“As originally conveyed through its Student Welfare Statement, Indiana University has been -- and will continue to remain -- fully committed to addressing sexual violence within our communities. First and foremost, we will continue in our work aimed at preventing sexual violence through education, public awareness campaigns and training initiatives for all members of our community. We will also continue to partner with our students, faculty and staff, university-based experts and practitioners, nationwide experts and our campus communities, to assess, increase and refine these efforts. And we will further our efforts to build a robust culture that rejects sexual misconduct and allows students to pursue their education with the utmost confidence in their personal safety.
Just as importantly, we will continue to respond to all reports of possible sexual misconduct by offering and providing support and resources to those who need it, by objectively and thoroughly investigating reports, and by conducting any related proceedings in a manner that assures due process, as well as fairness and dignity to all participants. All of our prevention and response efforts will continue at the same level of focus, vigor and intensity.
In light of the Sept. 7 announcement by the Department of Education, we will continue to monitor DOE’s actions and communications, and assess our existing policies and procedures to ensure our continued compliance with applicable laws and regulations. We also expect to participate in the formal rulemaking process to assure protection for victims and fairness to all.”
The University of Notre Dame released this statement:
"Like any new initiative, "Dear Colleague" had its share of hiccups when it was issued. But none that were insurmountable To the contrary, the previous administration succeeded in bringing sexual assault on campus out from the shadows. It also encouraged victims to come forward, and colleges and universities to support them when they did. These were and remain pluses.”
Betsy DeVos, US Secretary of Education, said the current policy has failed too many students – she said that includes both victims and the accused.
“Dear College Letter,” DCL, was implemented during the Obama administration in 2011. It provided guidance for applying Title IX requirements in response to sexual violence at all schools.
Schools were obligated to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate possible sexual violence. They also had to take prompt and actionable steps to end the sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and address its affects.
“The current approach does a disservice to everyone involved,” DeVos said.
Peter Agostino, a civil rights attorney in South Bend, said the guidelines are not the issue. He said the colleges were pushing complaints through the system that weren’t consistent with due process.
“Someone who is accused of committing sexual assault didn’t necessarily get a chance to ask questions to the people that were accusing him, didn’t get a chance to submit certain information, was limited in review and appeal, limited in who could assist in the process,” Agostino said.
DeVos said there’s a gap in the process that makes accommodations for accusers and gives punishment to the accused before receiving a fair decision.
Under the current guidelines, schools are required to provide a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sex discrimination and violence, “which must include an equal opportunity for both parties to present witnesses and other evidence.”
“Washington has insisted that schools step into roles that go beyond the mission of these institutions,” DeVos said.
DeVos said she will launch a notice and comment process, a rule-making procedure under which a proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and is open to comment by the general public.
“Universities being educational institutions ought to be open-minded,” Agostino said. “I think they need to involve different perspectives in formulating how Title IX procedures should be handled.”