Betsy DeVos just struck a major blow against sexual assault protections on college campuses

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks about campus sexual assault and enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in education on the basis of gender, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at George Mason University Arlington, Va., campus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

On Friday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era guidelines on investigating sexual assault on college campuses.

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The Obama administration’s 2011 policies prodded colleges and universities to investigate sexual assaults more aggressively, but critics worried it placed too much pressure on administrators and lacked due process for the accused by prematurely siding with alleged victims.

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“Those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students – both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints,” the department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, Candice Jackson, said of the previous guidelines.

The department is now advising colleges to provide the same information, rights and opportunities to both the victim and the accused during a sexual assault investigation. The new guidelines rescind any timeline for investigations and allows for schools to facilitate an informal resolution process if both parties agree. Universities will still be required to have a coordinator and to report all incidents of sexual assault as required by the Clery Act.

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The move has worried some women’s groups that are concerned victims of sexual assault may lose protections or feel pressure to remain silent. DeVos has been criticized for sympathizing too much with those accused of sexual assault, and some have complained that the department has failed to adequately listen to victims.

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