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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Dear Colleague letter policy rescinded

What you should know about the rollback

The United State’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos withdrew an Obama-era policy regarding sexual assault on university campuses on Sept. 22, 2017 and replaced it with a Q&A about what to do when it comes to sexual assault on campus. Here is what you need to know about what these policies entail.

What is Title IX?

Title IX was passed in 1972 and states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This one sentence law applies to all educational institutions, public or private, and exists to make sure that no university student is prevented from taking advantage of opportunities provided by the school. It applies to all people and genders and it protects students from sexual harassment in educational programs.

What is the Dear Colleague Letter?

The Dear Colleague letter is an Obama era policy from 2011 that lays out specific Title IX requirements related to sexual harassment. It is something that is very difficult to understand and is meant for those in charge of Title IX at a school to understand, as opposed to individual students. To start off, the name “Dear Colleague Letter” comes from the idea that a letter is sent from members of a legislative body, to fellow members concerning a bill or resolution. So in this case, the Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to schools about what Title IX means for sexual misconduct. This letter was specific about how universities respond to complaints of sexual misconduct on the campus and required if they did not investigate and adjudicate sexual assault cases, they would lose federal funding. It also required that universities have a Title IX Coordinator to take care of the responsibilities of Title IX.

Why did the Department of Education withdraw the policy?

In a speech at George Mason University on Sept. 7 about the policy, DeVos said she saw this policy as a “failed system.” The Department of Education rescinded the Dear Colleague letter because, according to DeVos, the policy did not protect those who were being accused of sexual assault because they were being denied due process, did not include law-enforcement which made schools create their own judicial system, did not allow for cross-examination because it violated Title IX and made the evidence requirements for conviction too lenient.

What are the differences between the new and old policies?

The Dear Colleague Letter from 2011 required colleges to produce only a preponderance of evidence, meaning it was easier to find someone guilty of sexual assault. The new policy allows either preponderance of evidence or a clear and convincing standard of evidence, a more rigorous standard for evidence, which makes it more difficult to prove the person accused as guilty. The old letter also required a 60 day time frame for adjudication. Now there is no time limit to how long the hearings and adjudication will take.

How is this going to affect St. Joe’s students?

We don’t know yet. According to Mary Elaine Perry, Ph.D., the Title IX Coordinator, it is too soon to truly understand how the sexual misconduct policy will change on campus. “I really am not prepared to comment on what might change because of this new letter,” Perry said.

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