Harming Survivors, Saving Dollars

It’s no secret Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hasn’t been the loudest advocate for students. In fact, she’s barely been an advocate at all. In her latest initiative—a reworking of how universities can implement a revised Title IX rule—DeVos places herself deeper in universities’ pockets and out of touch with student needs.

Title IX, implemented in 1972, is used to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation in federally funded education programs. Typically associated with athletic teams and departments, the Title IX office on college campuses has the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting sexual assault allegations. The rewording and addition of new regulations directly address how much leeway a school has in actually carrying out this responsibility.

Repealing Obama-era language, DeVos has mandated there must be “clear and convincing evidence” of a sexual crime that is “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it denies a person access to an education.

The new regulations reflect the stance the Trump administration has taken on regarding sexual assault and the #MeToo movement: Men are being targeted by lying women.

By rewriting what Title IX considers sexual assault and harassment, survivors are even more discouraged to report the crime committed. They are left feeling like their experience doesn’t measure up to the standards set—or even worse, they aren’t deemed within the realm of an investigation after reporting. Fear of revictimization by the system is already valid—now it becomes even more of a reality.   

Advocate group End Rape on Campus has spoken out against the changes in their “Dear Betsy” campaign. The group stated they “would have massive implications for campus safety, and would be devastating for survivors.” No-contact orders would have to be mutually agreed upon, and nothing could be implemented that would burden or seem to punish those accused.

In an even more bizarre turn of events, a court in Georgia ruled rape as a one-time event by a stranger may not have to be investigated because it is not “pervasive.”

Looking beyond the criminals who would go free, the real beneficiaries here are the high-profile colleges who lobbied for these changes.

Universities would only have to investigate accusations that are reported directly to designated administrators who are typically out of reach. Only this handful of staff members would have actual knowledge of a report being made, and beyond them, the school isn’t liable or mandated to investigate. The institution can only be held accountable if they are being “deliberately indifferent,” which would only be invoked if the designated administrators had the knowledge and did nothing about it.

The idea is for sexual assault to be difficult to report, hard to investigate and near impossible to prosecute.

Right now, these changes are going through a public opinion period. Once that passes, though, they will have the effect of law without having ever been approved by Congress.

It seems ridiculous any university would support policy changes that are obviously harmful to their student body, but it seems money is the best motivator. Schools would save between $286 to $367 million over the next decade once these changes are cemented, according to the Department of Education.

The changes to Title IX seems like a high price to pay with 34 percent of sexual assault victims dropping out of school, according to a study conducted by the University of Texas at Arlington.