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Setback in fighting campus sexual assaults

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Biden speaks with student activists on DeVos rewrite of sexual assault guidance

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Thursday in a speech that the department intends to revoke Title IX guidance on how schools should deal with sexual assault that was issued by the Obama administration.

In a devastating setback for survivors of sexual assault on campus, Education Secretary Betsy Devos said Thursday she meant to roll back an Obama era guidance that had ordered colleges and universities to treat sexual assaults more seriously.

DeVos' attack on Title IX is risky mostly because it threatens to unravel the means by which campus authorities are effectively able to discipline perpetrators of sexual assault.

Central to the debate is a 2011 memo from the Education Department that laid out rules colleges must follow when responding to complaints of sexual assault from their students.

It's notable that the "victims" she seems most anxious about aren't those of sexual assault - they're "victims of a lack of due process".

The union leader has been persistent in saying that there's "no reason to trust" Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and that she won't meet with the secretary until DeVos answers questions on whether she'll protect all students from discrimination and hold privately managed charters to the same accountability standards as public schools.

While Devos is right that those accused of sexual assault or harassment should be given due process, trying to equate that with the trauma of being sexually attacked in a college dorm room, a fraternity house, or even a hallway on campus is faulty logic.

DeVos has said the Obama administration guidance isn't working.

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Unlike in criminal courts, where guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, colleges were told to judge students based on whether it's "more likely than not" they committed the offense. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was among the many who pushed back after DeVos spoke, tweeting, "I'll fight with everything I've got to #StopBetsy from washing away all the progress we've made protecting survivors & making campuses safe".

"As someone who spent half a century in higher education and as a retired university president and former dean, I understand first hand the very real issue of sexual violence on campuses". "The truth is, although people don't want to talk about the brutal reality of sexual assault, especially when it occurs in our most cherished institutions, it is our reality, and it must be faced head-on".

DeVos is not revealing specifics about how she plans to approach Title IX.

Some leaders of historically black colleges and universities later expressed dismay when Trump invited them to the Oval Office for a "listening session" that became an apparent photo-op for Black History Month.

DeVos notably discussed the lack of due process now afforded to accused students throughout the Title IX process on college and university campuses. In an email, they said they are advocating for students to be part of the process for selecting a commencement speaker.

"Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously", DeVos said. More than 98 percent of female rape victims and 93 percent of male rape victims were raped by men, according to One in Four, a national nonprofit organization focused on rape prevention.

She went on to say that DeVos "has sought the demise of public education".

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