Betsy DeVos Proposes New Rules Regarding Sexual Assault On College Campuses

These controversial new rules change the definition of sexual harassment.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (R) speaks as President Donald Trump (L) listens during a parent-teacher conference listening session at the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 14, 2017 in Washington, DC
Alex Wong / Getty Images

These controversial new rules change the definition of sexual harassment.

New rules have been proposed by the Trump administration on Friday regarding sexual assault on college campuses, ABC News is reporting. According to a government survey, one in four female college seniors has experienced unwanted and non-consensual sexual contact since entering college. The Obama administration already had rules in place for situations such as these, but Betsy DeVos, the current United States Secretary of Education, is re-working these rules and came up with a new version that will be posted online. The rules will be up for 60 days to give time for the public to give their opinion on them, and the administration will decide whether to implement them or not depending on the response.

“Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” DeVos said in a statement. “We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it while ensuring a fair grievance process. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function.”

Reportedly, many men’s rights groups have advocated for a change in the rules and feel that the accused are not given enough due process. Cynthia P. Garrett, co-president of a group called Families Advocating for Campus Equality, said that many campus sexual assault cases she’s seen “involve the lack of affirmative consent, regretted sex, not life-threatening, criminal conduct.”

One of the most controversial proposed rules is in regards to the actual definition of sexual harassment. Under the Obama administration, it was “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” The new proposed definition regards harassment as unwanted sexual conduct that is “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a recipient’s education program or activity.” This could make it harder to prove the accused’s guilt, as the accuser would have to have find a way to prove that their actions have prevented them from returning to school. Another significant change is the rule that would allow the accused to cross-examine their accuser through an adviser or attorney.

Women’s rights groups are not happy about the potential changes coming to college campuses. Fatima Goss Graves, head of the National Women’s Law Center, said the new rules would make schools “more dangerous.” Other people in opposition of the new rules fear that this will discourage victims from coming forward and will placate college administrations that don’t want to go through the difficult process of dealing with a sexual assault case.