According to federal guidelines, hearings on campus must be held by US universities where sexual assault claims are made. Both the alleged victims and attackers can be cross-examined. The new set of US Department of Education rules enforces this change. The agency said the rules will ensure fairness to accusers and accused.
However, critics are saying that the alleged victims will be discouraged from reporting the attacks. The new policy is issued on Wednesday after an 18-month, limits what complaints private and public universities are obliged to investigate and raises the burden for holding a school liable for sexual assault. The universities have until August to comply with the rules.
The new rules are marked a shift for addressing how universities enforce Title IX, the federal law barring discrimination in education based on gender. The previous administration had sought to expand university responsibility for sexual misconduct on campuses under Title IX. Under this administration, the educational institutes are required to provide a live hearing and allow advisers to cross-question parties and witnesses involved – a practice discouraged by the previous administration.
In announcing the policy, Betsey DeVos, the education secretary, said: “Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault.” She added, “This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.”
Ms DeVos proposed some initial rules that limit schools’ liabilities and apply the requirement for hearings to secondary school pupils. However, after dissent from victims’ groups, those rules were scrapped. However, advocacy groups said the final policy cut back on victims’ rights. Fatima Graves of the National Women’s Law Center told the New York Times that “if this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault.”