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How will Title IX changes impact college campuses?

Earlier this month, Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education announced changes to college and university sexual assault regulations under Title IX. The regulations change many aspects of the current sexual assault reporting and investigation process. Colleges must adhere to the new regulations by Aug. 14, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Education is looking to create a fair system that equally protects the accusers and the accused, but will they achieve their goal?

Changes under the new regulations

The new Title IX regulations greatly differ from the Obama-era recommended guidelines. Under the new system:

  • Individuals accused of sexual assault must be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • Colleges must hold live hearings with cross-examination of both parties and witnesses
  • Colleges do not have to investigate off-campus, or international, allegations of sexual assault (if the off-campus location is not affiliated with the school)
  • Stalking, domestic violence and dating violence are officially classified as sexual harassment
  • Three school officials must investigate every Title IX case
  • Schools must respond to sexual assault reports within a "reasonably prompt" period
  • Parties involved in the alleged incident may speak about the allegations if they so choose
  • Title IX coordinators are no longer required to start a formal complaint against an individual if the coordinator receives multiple informal complaints about them
  • Schools choose which standard of guilt they will use for all allegations of sexual harassment: a "preponderance of evidence" or a "clear and convincing standard"

The impact on victims and the accused

Under the Obama-era guidelines, some argued that accused students were unfairly presumed guilty. They risked removal from campus after false accusations and were not provided an equal voice in proceedings. With the new regulations, the Department of Education aims to fairly protect both the accused and the survivors, defending both party's rights.

However, some groups fear that the new regulations will make it more difficult for sexual assault victims to find justice. Will victims be afraid to come forward if they are forced to participate in live hearings? Could cross-examination further traumatize survivors?

New regulations may be challenged

Know Your IX, a political advocacy group, and colleges across the country are expected to challenge the legality of new regulations in coming months. This may make it difficult, or impossible, for the regulations to go into effect by the mandated August 14th date. However, if the new rules hold, the Title IX landscape and sexual assault reporting on college campuses may look very different in years ahead. 

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