DeVos’ policy is ineffective

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President Eli Capilouto announced Monday, June 18, 2018 that the University of Kentucky had officially finalized changes to Administrative Regulation 6:2 (AR 6:2), formally known as the “Policy and Procedures for Addressing and Resolving Allegations of Sexual Assault, Stalking, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Exploitation.” Evaluating disciplinary responses to alleged sexual assaults on campus gained attention following U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ reversal of the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague letter” on sexual violence in September of 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Editorial Board

Toward the end of September, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos officially announced that her department struck down pieces of Obama-era legislation that allowed colleges to use the lowest standard of proof in sexual assault investigations on their campus and campus tribunals. DeVos said that she is giving colleges the opportunity to protect rights of the accused and have due process.

The policy in question was created in a “Dear Colleague” letter written from the Obama Administration to colleges in 2011, which was a response to colleges failing to take sexual assault complaints seriously and detailed how to handle those complaints. The New York Times wrote that DeVos said, “Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on, but the process must also be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”

All persons accused of crimes should have due process, but the current system of college tribunals has serious problems with letting rapists walk free. Just this year in August, a UK student, identified as Jane Doe, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university for mishandling sexual assault cases.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the motion says that the student was not protected from the accused rapist in the first 2016 case and in a second case, the university said there was not enough evidence to bring that case before the Sexual Misconduct Hearing Board. If there wasn’t enough evidence under the Obama policy, this could mean that even more evidence is needed to investigate sexual assault claims under DeVos’ new policy.

DeVos’ sentiment is appreciated with this policy, but sexual assault cases—which involve a serious, invasive, violent crime—should be a responsibility of the court system, not the education system. Colleges do not have the power to fully take action against found rapists, but prosecutors, judges and juries do.

We urge DeVos and the Department of Education to consider doing away with this tribunals all together in hopes of finding more justice for victims and accused.

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