In early September, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would be rewriting the rules surrounding sexual assault on college campuses. The morning of Sept. 22, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the planned changes to Title IX guidelines on sexual assault, spurring many reactions by colleges and universities across the U.S.
These changes to Title IX outline that it will no longer be abiding by the previously used guidelines in the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter or the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Instead, there is a new Interim Q&A policy that schools should use in place of the old documents. Under previous guidelines, universities were required to use a standard called “preponderance of evidence” that would find someone guilty of sexual assault if the evidence suggests it’s more than likely that that student is responsible. Now, under the new system, it gives universities the option to use “clear and convincing standard of proof,” which makes it more difficult to convict students who commit sexual assault.
“The withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, [and]created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness,” says the statement released by the U.S. Department of Education.
Supporters of these new guidelines say that this fixes the problem of having different standards for due process nationally versus on college campuses, and it keeps innocent people who have been accused of sexual assault from getting convicted. However, critics say that this fails to address how difficult it is to properly convict those who have committed sexual assault in the current system, and that many students who have actually committed rape and sexual assault walk free.
Regardless of these new options, DU sent an email to the student body assuring that this will not change the way the school addresses issues of sexual assault.
“[T]hese developments do not obligate the University to revise any of its existing policies or procedures,” the email stated. “Further, today’s announcement does not compromise the University of Denver’s mission to create a safe and inclusive campus environment, or its commitment to providing thorough, prompt, and equitable response to allegations of gender-based violence.”
Chancellor Rebecca Chopp also released a statement addressing the original announcement about Title IX changes, which affirms similar sentiments about the university’s commitment to the Title IX process.