“Let me be clear at the outset: Acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting and unacceptable. They are acts of cowardice and personal weakness, often thinly disguised as strength and power. Such acts are atrocious, and I wish this subject didn’t need to be discussed at all,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on the issue of college campus sexual assault.
“Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” DeVos added on September 8 during a speech at George Mason University in Virginia.
This week DeVos announced a rollback of the 2011 guidance by the Obama Administration prompting colleges to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when handling sexual assault allegations. Many argued that the standard was too low and the rules placed colleges in a role they were not qualified for: The role of acting as judge and jury in sexual assault cases.
Others argued that the standards placed the burden of proof on the accused and made it difficult for those accused to exonerate themselves.
The accused on campus sexual assault cases are almost all male.
“They are more focused on this tiny percentage of false accusations, which as you mentioned, do not happen often and yet they’re treating this as a 50-50 issue,” said Annie Clark, executive director of End Rape on Campus on CNN on September 8.
DeVos listened to both sides of the legal argument in a series of conversations on the issues over the last few months. Whether the change in policy will result in fewer cases being properly expedited can only be known after data comes in over the next few years.
But the move is yet another example of how the Trump Administration is fixated on re-examining, and in many cases undoing, the legacy of Barack Obama.