New rules for sexual assault on college campuses released

New+rules+for+sexual+assault+on+college+campuses+released

Graphic by Abby Fleming '20

Abby Fleming, Staff Writer

New rules have been created regarding sexual assault on college campuses, the most notabe that victims can be cross-examined during hearings. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos announced this new rule on May 6 in conjuction with other policies that will force universities to change how they handle sexual assault allegations. 

As many Staples seniors prepare to leave for college in the next few months, these new policies should be especially pertinent to them. 

Emma Vannart ’20 worries that the new rule would lead to an increase in underrporting of sexual assault when she gets to college, which is a problem faced by many universities already. 

“I think many sexual assault victims choose not to report the crime anyway,” Vannart ’20 said. She adds that this new rule may exacerbate the problem it is meant to solve, “many people would rather leave their school than go through a traumatic process like that one,” Vannart ’20 said.

In addition to allowing both the victim and perpetrator to be cross-examined, the definition of sexual assault has been altered. 

Previously, under Title IX, sexual assault was defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” According to Vox, the definition of sexual assault has changed to “unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity” under the new rules. 

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Devos said in a statement. The new rules would make universities handle sexual assault complaints more like a real trial. 

The National Women’s Law Center has advocated against these policies because it may make reporting assaults intimidating for victims.  

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault.””

— Secretary of Education Besty Devos

“We think this would mean that schools would be required to dismiss complaints of sexual harassment where they feel the victim hasn’t suffered enough because of the narrow definition that the department is putting forward,” Shiwali Patel, director of justice for student survivors at the NWLC said to NBC.

However, Devos says that the department took into account opinions from groups like NWLC before creating these rules in order to be sensitive to survivors as well as protect the falsely accused. 

According to CNN,  Devos said, “This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.”