Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is moving forward with her plans to implement a new Title policy.
The proposed idea would create a more “balanced” approach for the accused and accuser.
Last year, DeVos announced that she did not agree with Obama administration’s Title IX rules because students who were accused of sexual misconduct “lacked due process,” compared to the victim.
In the proposed interim guidance, DeVos gives Colleges and Universities the ability to change the standard of evidence, to their preference.
Currently the standard of evidence is the “preponderance of the evidence”which is evidence that is superior in weight, force or importance rather than beyond reasonable doubt.
In a hearing that might occur on a college campus, if the victim’s evidence weighs 51 percent or more, the accuser can be found responsible.
ESU’s Title IX Coordinator and Vice President of Student Affairs Doreen Tobin believes there is a lot of conflict when it comes to evidence.
“There are people out there that feel like they have been inappropriately accused and who felt like they lost a lot as a result of that because the standard of evidence was so low,” Tobin said. “What is being proposed is that the university can either stick with the preponderance of the evidence or, what DeVos is suggesting, clear and convincing evidence, which is a much higher standard.”
According to DeVos, any policy the schools chooses to enact within their institution must be consistently applied.
Kimberly S. Adams, Ph.D., professor of political science at ESU and coordinator for New Leadership Program, believes that it is the government’s responsibility to make the rules for the amount of evidence required rather than leaving it up to the institutions.
“The reason why the government sets the standards is because we cannot expect every university to set equal standards in protecting the victims,” Adams said. “Some will be more relaxed, while others will be more rigid.”
DeVos is also suggesting to modify the existing rule which provides the victim and the accused the right to appeal the results of a decision.
Under the new guidance, a college or university can determine, with the backing of the department of education, to not allow an appeal at all, or just allow an appeal from the accused and not the alleged victim and vice versa.
“That is important because currently, if a case goes to hearing and a result comes through, the accused individual can– through ESU policy–appeal through certain standards such as inefficient evidence, lack of due process, excessive sanctions etc.,” Tobin said. “The same would be true for the victim.”
Tobin believes that equal justice is required for due process.
“We have to make sure that we are taking care of the students and offer some amount of support to the accused as well,” she said.
DeVos’ new rules would also require institutions to only investigate the cases that happen on the physical grounds of the campus.
Under the Obama-era policy, every university employee is considered responsible and has an obligation to report any sexual assault incident to the Title IX coordinator.
The new regulation also proposes that if the student who is the victim does not report the assault to the person who can institute corrective measures (title ix coordinator), the university would not be held legally responsible.
The most controversial policy being enforced is that the accused has the right to cross examine the victim in a hearing.
“In many instances in the student code of conduct, that’s not necessary in order to find the person responsible. A lot of women would not go forward with the case if they have to be questioned by the assailant,” Tobin said.
Mahra Al Bakri, Psychology major at ESU does not believe cross examination is required to reach a balanced result within a case.
“To have the victim face his or her assaulter, is a means of intimidation and would instill more fear in those who want to tell their story,” Al Bakri said. “There is too much more concern for the accused and not enough for the victim.”
Despite the proposed changes, Tobin thinks ESU is comfortable with the current standards.
“We have a set process and its working, and until we are under some other prevailing situation, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to change it.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are victims of sexual violence, and one in 71 men. About 90 percent of these assaults are never reported.
“The new policies only portray a purely male-female perspective where the female is named as victim but there are men who also get assaulted,” Tobin said.
“Sexual assault is also an issue in a gay community and it is reported far less than it is in the heterosexual community.”
Both the Trump or Obama- era Title IX guidelines attempt to shine a light on the process of dealing with sexual misconduct.
“From my perspective, all that we have gone through in Title IX has been very important and very reinforcing to women especially,” says Tobin.
“I think it helps educate women who maybe have said to themselves well, I must be responsible in some way and now they’re understanding that they didn’t invite a rape.”
“The attention has also forced universities to do a better job in educating students, faculty and staff in really working hard to affect positive change in the culture,” Tobin said.
Email Rania at: