Western Courier

DeVos redefines sexual assault

Jason Adams, Courier Staff

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We have just recently learned that not only does Betsy DeVos know nothing about the education system, she also knows nothing about being a decent human being in general.

In recent news, New York Times has reported that DeVos is proposing federal changes on campus sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases, that in the long run would go against the victim. How in light of the recent #MeToo movement and all of the positive steps that have been happening in recent months to help sexual assault victims do we enact a policy that hurts some of the most vulnerable victims?

College campuses have been one of the epicenters of this movement as we’ve seen so many universities cover up or not listen to sexual misconduct allegations. Now that we’re starting to move into the right direction we have this.

Included in these changes are an updated definition of sexual assault for colleges. The old definition stated that sexual harassment was “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” That is a concise definition for an issue that could look like a variety of things. The new definition does not take the same path. The new definition was narrowed down to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

First off, why does sexual harassment have to get “severe” before we do something? Sexual harassment isn’t something that’s good or okay in small doses as long as you don’t go overkill, it’s just wrong. Same issue with “pervasive” and “objectively offensive.” Based on that definition, as long as it’s only towards one person and may not be seen as bad to any reasonable person it’s okay. That does not make sense and should not be a policy on any college campus. Just that one sentence. The second part that it has to “deny a person access to education or activity” could be interpreted in a couple ways. As long as they’re able to deal with in a lecture hall it’s not harassment? They have to be skipping class out of fear for the school to consider there may be a problem? That’s not right.

The institutions themselves also got a break. The new policies require that the institution had to have good knowledge of the incident to be held legally responsible if there is an issue or if the school didn’t handle the situation appropriately. It also has to be known by an authority figure who can enforce penalties and consequences. The icing on the cake is that the new policies only require schools to investigate if the incident happens on the school’s property (dorm, dining hall, classroom, etc.). Which leaves all the incidents that happen off campus but still could affect the students up to the local authorities who have no ability to change or fix a victim’s schedule.

All of these policies counteract what college students and advocates have been trying to do to get basic protections for sexual misconduct victims and allow them to pursue their right to an education.

My view of DeVos has gone down even further, and I didn’t think that was possible. We need a new Secretary of Education, fast.

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DeVos redefines sexual assault