By Laura Clawson / Daily Kos
In the age of #MeToo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is poised to set a policy that lets colleges off the hook for taking sexual harassment seriously and makes life much easier for accused rapists and harassers. DeVos previously rescinded Obama-era guidelines on campus sexual assault because they were supposedly unfair to rapists, and now she’s ready to take the next step with regulations of her own.
The DeVos rules would allow perpetrators to cross-examine their victims during mediation and would “also allow the complainant and the accused to have access to any evidence obtained during the investigation, even if there are no plans to use it to prove the conduct occurred.” Because it’s not already hard enough for assault survivors to come forward—now their assailants will have free rein to dig through their lives and intimidate them in person. Additionally:
The new rules would adopt a new Supreme Court definition of “sexual harassment” that appears to be reserved for repeated complaints or the most egregious allegations. The new rules would define sexual harassment to mean “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.” […]
The new rules would require that institutions only be held legally responsible for investigating formal complaints and responding to reports that school officials have “actual knowledge” of happening. A formal complaint is one made to “an official who has the authority to institute corrective measures,” not, for instance, a residential adviser in a dormitory.
So if someone suffering sexual harassment doesn’t make the exact right formal complaint to the exact right person, the college is off the hook. Unless harassment actually “denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity,” it doesn’t count. And don’t forget, that complaint could mean giving your harasser power over your life and further personal access to question and demean you. Needless to say, men’s rights groups are thrilled.
Oh, and by the way, “the Trump administration’s new rules will have the force of law and can go into force without an act of Congress, after a public comment period.” Just perfect.