Devos: “Every student accused…must know that guilt is not predetermined.”


On Sept. 22, the Department of Education released a new interim question and answer guidelines for the handling of sexual violence on campuses. Two Obama-era guidelines, the 2011 Dear Colleague letter and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence were withdrawn.
The Obama-era issued guidelines required schools to use the lowest standard of proof when prosecuting student-on-student sexual misconduct. The lowest standard of proof requires that the accusation have more than a 50% likelihood for being true. Accused students had complained that, due to the recently rescinded policies, the campus judicial process was biased towards female accusers.
In a Sept. 7 press release, Betsy DeVos stated, “Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
DeVos went on to claim that the prior administration’s guidelines discriminated against accused minorities and wrongly stereotypes accusers and accused. DeVos also criticized the current guidelines as elaborate and confusing.
“We will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system,” Devos stated.
DeVos’ withdrawal of the Obama-era policies was meet with criticism on social media. The hashtag “stopdevos” was trending on Twitter after the rescindment was announced. Protests were also staged on campuses across the country. Protestors argue that DeVos’ actions show favor towards rapists and perpetuate rape culture on campuses.
At this time, colleges are expected to follow the newly released Q&A on Sexual Misconduct. The Department of Education will continue to rely on the Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance issued 2001 and the Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Harassment issued on Jan. 25, 2006 while they create a new system for processing sexual misconduct allegations.