Was DeVos’ overturning the right choice?

EvyJo Compton

Staff Writer

Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education of the United States, overturned strict guidelines about how colleges were to respond to sexual assault that were implemented in Barack Obama’s presidency.

Many in the nation are divided as to whether or not this was the right choice.

During the Obama administration, guidelines were set in place with the hopes that colleges and students alike would take sexual assault more seriously. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 11.2 percent of all graduate and undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

The main reason that DeVos overturned Obama-era guidelines is because the guidelines called for the use of preponderance of the evidence as proof. DeVos claims that using the lowest level of proof would turn the accused into victims, as the smallest amount of evidence could be used to hold the accused accountable.

The Obama-era guidelines do state that using the lowest level of proof is acceptable, but it goes on to say that throughout a school’s Title IX investigation, including at any hearing, the parties must have an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence. This evens the playing ground between the accused and the accuser; if there is enough evidence shown during this equal opportunity, then the accused will be found guilty.

DeVos stated that the Obama guidelines did not work for students, colleges, or really anyone under the effect of the guidelines, but it seems that the guidelines that she has used as replacement are even less likely to be effective.

For example, DeVos’ guidelines have no set amount of time for an investigation of a sexual assault, whereas with the Obama-era guidelines, there was to be an investigation within a sixty day window.

Along with the time frame difference, there are a few other instances where it would appear that DeVos’ guidelines are not up to par with the Obama-era guidelines. DeVos’ guidelines allow for colleges to follow up the report of sexual assault with different means of resolution, which includes mediation. In the Obama-era guidelines, mediation is not seen as a suitable form of resolution and other methods are cited.

Students and colleges across the board were left in limbo as DeVos and her cabinet decided on what to use for their new guidelines. Many colleges chose to keep Obama-era guidelines and continue using those despite what DeVos has now created.

The University of Colorado was one of the colleges that has chosen to continue using the Obama-era guidelines instead of following DeVos. Their reasoning was that if they had been doing well with the Obama-era guidelines, then they would be okay continuing with them.

The state of California was another place to continue with the Obama-era guidelines. It is now state law for colleges to accept the preponderance of the evidence, or lowest level of evidence, as proof.

While some colleges view the change with open arms and others with closed doors, there is confusion among some regarding what DeVos was trying to achieve. DeVos wanted to change the Obama-era guidelines because of what was called a clear bias towards the accusers, but for many, that was not the interpretation.