United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provided new guidelines on how school officials should treat sexual misdemeanor cases, retracting the Obama-era Title IX regulations. She issued a press conference on Sept. 22. Claire Doan, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, assures that Devos’ plan will not drastically affect the current systemwide policy.
“The campuses have flexibility in tailoring their approaches to training, prevention, and support for complainants and respondents to meet the unique needs of their local communities,” Doan stated.
University of California President Janet Napolitano voiced her concern in a statement she released on Sept. 22.
“I am deeply worried by the Department of Education announcement today that will in effect weaken sexual violence protections [and] prompt confusion among campuses,” Napolitano stated.
UC System’s Title IX Coordinator Kathleen Salvaty explained the UC System’s responses to the modifications in a letter sent to the Title IX coordinators on Sept. 22.
“UC’s systemwide policies and procedures on sexual violence and sexual harassment remain in full effect,” Salvaty said. “The policy is compliant with federal regulations and state law, which require equal rights for complainants and respondents.”
DeVos’s new plan provides guidelines that suggest school officials ask for more evidence when reviewing cases in order to protect the rights of the accused.
“In order to ensure that America’s schools employ clear, equitable, just, and fair procedures that inspire trust and confidence, we will launch a transparent notice and comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties in developing a better way,” DeVos said.
The Department of Education released a new question and answer document. In the document, there is no time frame specified for a “prompt investigation” of a case.
“There is no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation,” the article states. “[The Office for Civil Rights] will evaluate a school’s good faith effort to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner.”
To evaluate misconduct cases, the document proposes “either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.” The “preponderance of the evidence” guidelines suggest that at least 50 percent of the evidence must point to the accused in order for the alleged attacker to undergo disciplinary sanction.
California State government planned on passing SB 169, a bill that aimed to burrow the modifications of Title IX. According to Buzzfeed News, “Advocates for accused students had asked [Governor Edmund Brown] to veto the bill, raising concern that minority and low-income students could be more likely to face discipline.”
Governor Brown sided with the opposition and vetoed SB 169 on Oct. 15.
In his veto message, Brown stated, “On the one side are complainants who come forward to seek justice and protection; on the other side stand accused students, who, guilty or not, must be treated fairly.”
Sixth College Sophomore Drew Olbrantz spoke on his stance regarding the Title IX adjustments. “The accused are often punished without due process — a fundamental right outlined by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of our constitution,” Olbrantz states. “Title IX protections are vital to protecting against sex discrimination and protecting victims of sexual assault, but the way in which these protections are carried out hopefully force us to consider a new solution.”
Revelle College sophomore Melody Fajardo expressed her concern that the Title IX consequences will make it more difficult for women to speak out.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that [DeVos] is asking for more evidence. It’s hard for women to report these incidents because they fear for their job, their pride, and their lives,” Fajardo stated.
Salvaty and Doan stress that the current UC System policy for dealing with sexual misconduct will remain unchanged.