By Delaney Gagnon
In events consistent with the Trump administration’s continuous effort to repeal Obama-era policy, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has declared the official rescinding of Title IX guidances issued by the previous administration. The announcement comes shortly after Devos publicly made claims that the Obama administration’s Title IX guidelines, which were intended to provide more substantial protections for student victims of sexual assault, led to an increase of false accusations.
Most notably, the new directive reverses a contentious Obama-era guideline-issued in a 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter-that encouraged schools to adopt policies requiring the lowest standard of proof in cases of sexual assault. This means it was easier for victims to bring their assailants to justice as the policy required only proof that it was “more likely than not” that a crime was committed. Because of this, DeVos and supporters contend that accused students were being deprived of due process. DeVos’ action returns federal guidelines to it’s prior stance; that schools require “clear and convincing” evidence when trying students for sexual assault. Critics note that returning to the old standard may discourage victims from reporting incidences of assault, which already go chronically underreported.
“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” said DeVos in weeks leading up to the Education Department’s announcement. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”
As a federally funded institution, Simmons is required to follow mandates issued by the government. However, while students may find this news discouraging, the Simmons College community can be assured that their rights are protected. As Simmons’ Title IX coordinator, Gretchen Groggel Ralston, is charged with upholding the Title IX rights of Simmons students.
“Simmons remains committed to Title IX rights, and their enforcement,” said Groggel Ralston.
The Title IX team at Simmons also reminds students that the new administration’s memo sets only a baseline of action and that schools are not barred from doing more. They also urge students to recognize that as the federal government backs away from these policies, state governments will likely pick up the slack.
According to Groggel Ralston, “Massachusetts, right now, is in the process of negotiating a law that will fill in any gaps that they feel exist after the federal government takes a step back.”
Regardless, Simmons is committed to protecting its students. “We are going to continue to have resources devoted to students who experience gender based misconduct,” Groggel Ralston said. “We’ve put a lot of thought and time into putting together a really strong policy that provides fairness for students but also is efficient in addressing these issues.”