Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed new changes to federal policy on school campuses which would minimize liability for schools, provide more support for victims as well as support the rights of those accused of rape, assault and harassment.
The proposed policies, obtained by The New York Times, is said to hold schools accountable solely for formal complaints filed through authorities and incorporate a higher legal procedure to determine if schools properly addressed the complaint.
“We already know that sexual misconduct and sexual harassment are very underreported crimes because there’s a sense of the victims that nobody is going to help me, no one cares,” said English Professor David Weinshilboum. “We’ve already seen what happened in Michigan State where this rape culture allowed for sexual misconduct to go on for years and people in positions of power turned a blind eye.”
Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the gymnastics team at Michigan State, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual misconduct of more than 60 young women at a gymnastics facility, according to an article by The New York Times.
“There’s been a lot of conversation around policies that relates to how these matters are investigated,” said College President Edward Bush. “Policies and laws and regulations are extremely important and there needs to be a focus on that, but also we need to address the idea of a cultural side because regardless if there is a policy, people don’t feel comfortable coming forward, and a policy is not going to fix that.”
Under President Trump’s administration, these new rules may be established without an act of Congress, according to The New York Times.
The new proposed rules will also narrow down the definition of sexual harassment. The Supreme Court standard says it will be defined as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity,” according to an article by Forbes.
Department of Education Spokesperson reached by the Times said that these new proposed rules are “premature and speculative” and have no comment.
“DeVos has shown that one: she is not in tune with the real world and real issues like sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. She doesn’t understand that these implications make things worse for victims,” Weinshilboum said. “I think that DeVos’s proposal would just create more situations like Michigan State and the Catholic church which is not okay.”
Peter Weller, a 22-year-old political science major, said he does not agree with the new proposed rules.
“I believe that that [proposed rules] makes any possible claims that DeVos has on improving the school system just woefully wrong because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she hasn’t set foot in a public school system,” Weller said.