Betsy DeVos proposes changes to how Title IX schools such as DSU, SUU handle sexual misconduct reporting

Photo by KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her proposed changes to Title IX on Friday. If approved, it will change the way colleges and universities handle complaints of sexual misconduct all over the U.S. — including in Southern Utah’s backyard at Dixie State University and Southern Utah University.

DeVos’ plan, laid out in a nearly 150-page document, would add more protections to students accused of sexual assault and harassment and redefine what constitutes sexual misconduct.

Sexual misconduct is currently defined as being any “unwelcome conduct of sexual nature.” Under the new proposal, it would be defined as being something that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”

Where an incident of sexual misconduct takes place was also subject to change under the new plan, which states colleges and universities would only have to investigate a complaint if the alleged incident occurred on campus or in areas supervised by the institution, such as on-campus housing. Currently, institutions must investigate all complaints, regardless of location.

In regard to more protections for the accused, the new plan would require institutions to apply basic due process, according to the Department of Education. This means the accused would have a presumption of innocence during the grievance process, a written notice of allegations, be able to review evidence collected against them and have the right to cross-examine their accuser through their advisor.

This proposed rule goes against rape shield law, which limits the ability to introduce evidence about a plaintiff’s past sexual behavior.

“Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment,” DeVos said in a statement. “Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

According to a report from The Associated Press, supporters said the proposed Title IX changes do a better job at providing equal treatment to all students. However, opponents of the proposed changes said they fear fewer victims would report sexual assault under the new rules.

As of now, the Department of Education is investigating more than 350 Title IX complaints involving sexual harassment or violence at the college level. It’s also investigating more than 250 complaints at elementary and secondary schools.

How these changes will affect Dixie State University and Southern Utah University will remain unclear until the 60-day commenting period is over. SUU’s Title IX coordinator Heather Ogden declined to comment on the changes but said the university’s Title IX office will stay dedicated to providing support and assistance to students and community members.

“In the wake of the release of this guidance today, I, as well as my colleagues around the state and nationally, will begin evaluating how the guidance will impact our work going forward,” Ogden said in an email to St. George News.

The Title IX coordinator at DSU couldn’t be immediately reached.

Other proposed changes include the following:

  • Highlighting the importance of supportive measures such as academic course adjustments, counseling, no-contact forms, dorm room reassignments, leaves of absence and class schedule changes.
  • If a school chooses to offer an appeal, both parties can appeal.
  • In order to promote impartial decisions, institutions wouldn’t be allowed to use a “single-investigator” or “investigator-only” model.

To learn more about the proposed changes, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • iceplant November 21, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Another one of Trump’s appointments that is pure trash. I can’t stop shaking my head at the insane things these people are doing in the name of making America “great.” Seems more like they’re all hellbent on destroying this country piece by piece in every facet that they can get their disgusting hands on.

    You people who voted for this should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves.

    • Happy Commenter November 21, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      Ignorance is bliss..

  • 42214 November 21, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Insane things like due process of law, innocent until proven guilty, right to confront accuser, evidence, witnesses, all that silly stuff. Just hellbent on undoing the crap Obama initiated. Policies on college campuses are an afront to fairness and due process. This is long overdue.

  • Red2Blue310 November 22, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Betsy Devos, another incompetent Trump moron.

    • 42214 November 22, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      Now that really adds substance to the conversation. Petty name calling.

    • 42214 November 22, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      What is Secretary DeVos specifically proposing that makes her a moron. Tell us what you think of Title IX and what should be done to improve it. Otherwise Red, you got nothing. Period.

  • Happy Commenter November 23, 2018 at 1:13 am

    R2BD and the left iare just going to keep looking for stuff Mueller couldn’t find for the next 2 years. The TDS is strong on this one!

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