Betsy DeVos’ repeal of Obama era “Dear Colleague” letter


It’s safe to say that President Donald Trump’s administration has had its fair share of controversy throughout the year. It seems most Americans can agree, whatever side of the political spectrum they may be on, drama is an everyday thing to expect from this administration. With that being said, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ newest repeal is no exception.


DeVos is a Michigan born and raised billionaire who’s been a face in education politics for some time. DeVos has been busy during her first several months in office, trying to push several budget plans. The budget plans seek to increase funding for private and religious schools through congress and repeal several measures put in place by the Obama administration.


Most recently, DeVos repealed parts of the Obama era “Dear Colleague Letter”, setting the guidelines for the handling of sexual assault on a college campus. The largest and most controversial portion of the repeal consists of the migration of the evidence standard from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and concise evidence”. This meaning, sexual assault cases will be required to present a higher level of evidence for an offender to be proven guilty. The “preponderance” rule means colleges must find the offender guilty if it is more likely than not that the misconduct occurred.


Under the new “clear and concise rule”, it has to be highly probable misconduct occurred in order for a guilty charge. Trump administration deemed the Obama era guidelines unfair to those accused, assuming some of those accused had been convicted wrongly due to the low standard of evidence. Males also claimed college jurors were biased towards the predominantly male accused, falsely sympathizing with the false accusers. DeVos’ repeal is an attempt to increase fairness for those accused, but along the way has raised some concern for the victims of these cases.


The repeal of the sexual harassment guidelines in the “Dear Colleague Letter”  foreshadows a darker road ahead for sexual assault victims. Colleges also have foreseeable problems adapting to the new policies. There is a general confusion in how to adapt to the new policy, with DeVos’ unclarity regarding if the new evidence standard must be changed, and when the new standard will take effect. Other changes will affect victims such as the ability for mediation within the case. This meaning if both parties agree, they may meet to work out their disagreements, an option which was previously outlawed under Obama due to the pressure and fear a victim may feel to participate and submit to the offender.


DeVos’ repeal could ultimately force victims into hiding sexual assault cases, for fear of not meeting the evidence required for the case to be taken in by law enforcement. On top of this, up to 350 active sexual assault cases may be dismissed due to the lack of the new higher standard for evidence, leaving the victims of these cases unhelped.


Although Devos’ new repeal will ultimately affect those students on college campuses, the effects and sympathies are felt here at DHS.


“Mediation between the two parties in which one has wronged the other is always a good thing before some kind of higher law enforcement has to step in,” senior Caleb LaFrance said.


LaFrance is more sympathetic towards the changes made by DeVos and feels that the new policy could help people who are falsely accused.


“This is a very gray area that not a lot of people like to talk about,” LaFrance said. “I feel like it’s time we deal with it.”


While LaFrance thinks the new changes could improve how sexual assault is dealt with, he also realizes it is a very emotional topic, but thinks in the most basic sense the repeal is an improvement.


“I’m for it, in the most basic sense,” LaFrance said.


Many other DHS students feel the new policy will only hurt victims of sexual assault, making it even harder for victims to have their stories taken seriously.


“I find that very frustrating because colleges already make it very difficult for someone to come out because that shows statistics on their college, and therefore makes them look less attractive to future students,” senior Alex Batha said.


Batha feels that the new policy only makes it more and more difficult for someone to prove they’ve been assaulted.


“I don’t understand what kind of evidence they’re going to want if you’re sexually assaulted. The fact that they want more and more evidence, I find ridiculous, because if it happens, it happens. it’s not like they’re going to be revealing text messages or anything like that,” Batha said.


The views on DeVos’ new policy vary from person to person, creating a natural sense of conflict between students and politicians alike.


DeVos’ new policy is expected to be finalized in the upcoming months, with the new rules set in place as placeholders until the final ruling is announced. Males and females alike are soon to experience the impact of DeVos’ actions on college campuses everywhere, regardless of views and opinions on the repeal.  

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Emi Hunt & Zach Parfeniuk

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