On the Basis of Sex, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic, drew crowds large enough to make it a top end-of-2018 movie. The film documents the Supreme Court judge’s early battles against gender discrimination in the 1970s.
Now a half-century later, in November 2018, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, announced sweeping changes to Title IX regulations which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex for any federally funded education program or activity.
Advocates are concerned that the billionaire’s changes to Title IX are a step in the wrong direction.
The public comment period, when citizens could weigh in on the changes, began November 28, 2018, and ended on January 28, 2019. Much of the 60-day period fell over the holidays when most college students are home for holiday break.
To some, it seems the holiday blockbuster has garnered more attention than Devos’s changes to regulations that govern gender discrimination on college campuses.
“[Only] the usual suspects are concerned,” said Cameron Morrison, one of two campus Title IX coordinators.
“There are concerning aspects. It’s unclear on how we would keep equity in the process— that both parties would have equal responsibilities,” Morrison said.
Overall, the new rules grant more rights to persons accused of sexual violence.
For example, alleged perpetrators would be guaranteed the right to cross-examine victims and witnesses, according to The Chronicle.
“Cross-examination is re-traumatizing to a student survivor, according to Obama-administration guidance like the Dear Colleague letter”, said Morrison.
Title IX hearings would including a hearing committee of students, staff and advisers, with both the accusing and responding parties in the same room, he said.
As the rules stand now, third-party investigators collect as much information as possible, instead of courtroom-style cross-examination.
Secondly, colleges would only be held responsible for investigating formal complaints of sexual violence on campus or within an educational program or activity, according to The Chronicle. Off-campus incidents could be left out.
Devos’s changes narrow the definition of sexual assault while giving colleges more leeway to use informal resolutions methods, like mediation. The standard of proof would also be increased, National Public Radio reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement in opposition to the changes.
The changes “would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported,” the organization said in a tweet.
“In an era of backlash from respondents, the department of education seems to have forgotten that Title IX policy needs to be survivor-centric,” said Elena Meth ‘19, S.H.A.R.E. president and Denison Coalition for Sexual Respect (DCSR) president. The coalition meets every other Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Higley auditorium. The next meeting will be held on February 25.