Originally published in the Lone Conservative
In the last weeks, Betsy DeVos has rescinded Obama’s “Dear Colleague Letter” and the influence it had on Title IX enforcement. These changes, while worrisome, will not discourage the reporting of sexual assault on campus; they are instead trying to ease the strain Obama’s letter put on systems of Civil Liberty.
There are two pieces of policy that are interwoven with this change. Title IX requires that schools who receive federal funds do not to discriminate on the basis of sex. The law itself does not mention sexual violence, and yet it informs their sexual assault policies on campus.
In 2011, President Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter gave American universities direction on how to go about the investigation of sexual assault and the enforcement of ensuing consequences. The letter did not change policies directly or announce new legal proceeding. Nevertheless, this letter influenced many university’s policies. The letter sent a strong message that the U.S. government is committed to prosecuting sexual assault to the fullest extent, and thereby ensuring equal treatment on campuses. The Obama administration changed the standards for sexual assault investigation through a letter, showing that words carry weight.
Candice Jackson, currently the acting head of the department’s office for civil rights, wrote a new instruction letter for the “Scope of Complaints.” Jackson’s letter specifically references the negative implications of Title IX in sexual assault investigations, and the too-long complaint filing and appeals process.
The goal of the letter is to give context for the new instructions for addressing case backlogs and dealing with complaints in a more appropriate time frame as to ensure that the civil rights for all parties involved are protected.
“Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence. It requires a serious pursuit of truth,” DeVos stated in her speech at George Mason University.
In short, are DeVos and her staff acting within their scope of control? Yes, but there is understandable concern from professors and students over this change in approach to campus assault. A liberty-minded approach, but will the pursuit of campus predators lose steam? Once this new plan assumes action, we will be able to examine its implications.