Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) President Mark Ojakian is raising concerns with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed rule changes to Title IX. In a public comment submitted today, President Ojakian outlined specific issues with Secretary DeVos’s amendments to Obama-era regulations aimed at preventing assaults and protecting victims.
Specifically, CSCU is concerned with the following aspects of the Secretary’s proposed changes:
- A narrowed scope of the definition of sexual harassment, severely limiting the cases to which institutions could respond meaningfully;
- Ambiguity about what triggers a school’s obligation to respond, particularly surrounding the many incidents of sexual violence which occur off-campus at events not sponsored by the college or university;
- A shifting of the burden of proof in assault cases, making it more difficult for victims to receive the justice they deserve;
- A provision which authorizes victims to be cross-examined by attorneys for those accused of sexual misconduct, potentially creating a chilling effect on complainants and decreasing the number of victims who report violence;
- Expedited timing of final determination, removing time for a school to deliberate and make a fair and informed decision; and
- The removal of deadlines related to the investigatory process, possibly slowing the process to resolve complaints.
“Victims of sexual misconduct deserve to be taken seriously and to have their complaints investigated and adjudicated in a timely and professional manner,” President Ojakian wrote. “I hope the Department will take into consideration comments from the many institutions of higher education across the country that have raised significant concerns, and that the proposal will be amended accordingly.”
In November 2018, Secretary DeVos formally proposed new rules which would roll back guidelines issued under the Obama administration in 2011. Under the federal rulemaking process, the public had 60 days to submit comments on the proposal before it becomes final. The period of public notice and comment ends this Thursday.
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