Activists and university faculty fear DeVos’ proposed Title IX rollbacks

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Earlier this fall, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed a series of rollbacks to Obama-era Title IX regulations.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX is an equity statute that applies to federally-funded universities and K-12 education. It encourages women’s equal access to coursework and athletics, minimizing the threat of sexual assault.

In 2011, the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter required federally-funded schools hire a Title IX coordinator, and ensure equitable treatment for the accused and accuser. Many argue that both are threatened under Secretary DeVos’ proposed rollbacks. 

DeVos’ proposals include narrowing the definition of what constitutes a sexual assault. For example, if an assault occurs at a fraternity house or at an apartment party outside university grounds, the victim would not be protected under Title IX. Nine out of 10 assaults occur off campus.

The definition of sexual assault may change from “unwanted conduct of sexual nature” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

While filing a report, DeVos would require federally-funded universities to remind the victim of penalties for lying under the honor code.

The student and survivor-led activist group, End Rape on Campus, met with Betsy DeVos. The group reports it was the first and only meeting DeVos has had with survivors. 

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