Betsy DeVos Plans to Weaken Obama’s Campus Sexual Assault Rules

She called the rules “wholly unAmerican.”

Susan Walsh/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Department of Education announced on Thursday that it will weaken a set of requirements for how colleges and universities are expected to handle cases of sexual assault on college campuses. In a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos criticized a set of rules that the department had issued in 2011 that, under Title IX, forced colleges to conduct their own investigations and stated police reports cannot be used to determine whether a violation occurred, because a criminal case requires stronger evidence. 

The Department of Education will take comments from the public before issuing new guidelines, though DeVos’ remarks suggest that the new standard will likely to be a significant departure from the Obama-era rules. DeVos called the current process for handling sexual misconduct “shameful,” a “failed system,” and “wholly unAmerican.”

“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.” Critics of the Obama-era rule have argued that it does not offer adequate due process for the students accused of sexual misconduct. Under the directive, institutions of higher education use the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires a 51 percent certainty in determining guilt. Sexual violence is often difficult to prove to a higher certainty, and false accusations are extremely rare. But in July, DeVos’ deputy in charge of civil rights suggested that 90 percent of sexual assault allegations at colleges are false.

“Any school that refuses to take seriously a student who reports sexual misconduct is one that discriminates,” DeVos said during her remarks. “And any school that uses a system biased toward finding a student responsible for sexual misconduct also commits discrimination.”

You can watch DeVos’ full remarks below.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest