Education Secretary Betsy DeVos today criticized the previous administration's approach to campus sexual assault, accusing it of imposing a "broken system" that mistreats both accused students and rape survivors.
The Obama-era Office for Civil Rights compelled universities to design sexual assault adjudication policies that have deprived students of due process rights and weakened protections for freedom of expression. In a speech this afternoon, DeVos said her department would revise its existing guidance for complying with Title IX, the federal statute at the center of the effort.
DeVos cited several examples of colleges putting students through Kafkaesque quasi-judicial procedures. I promise you they are real. We've written about them at Reason.
Here's a list of some of DeVos's examples, with links to our articles about them.
1. Stony Brook University
"The current failed system left one student to fend for herself at a university disciplinary hearing," said Devos. "She told her university that another student sexually assaulted her in her dorm room. In turn, her university told her she would have to prosecute the case herself. Without any legal training whatsoever, she had to prepare an opening statement, fix exhibits and find witnesses."
I covered that case here: "College Rape Trials Are Unfair to Men and Women. Here's Why."
2. The University of Southern California
"You may have recently read about a disturbing case in California," said DeVos. "It's the story of an athlete, his girlfriend, and the failed system. The couple was described as 'playfully roughhousing,' but a witness thought otherwise and the incident was reported to the university's Title IX coordinator. The young woman repeatedly assured campus officials she had not been abused nor had any misconduct occurred. But because of the failed system, university administrators told her they knew better. They dismissed the young man, her boyfriend, from the football team and expelled him from school. 'When I told the truth,' the young woman said, 'I was stereotyped and was told I must be a 'battered' woman, and that made me feel demeaned and absurdly profiled.'"
Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote about that one here: "Star-Crossed Student Athletes Torn Apart By Title IX Witchhunt at USC."
3. George Mason University
"Another student at a different school saw her rapist go free," said Devos. "He was found responsible by the school, but in doing so, the failed system denied him due process. He sued the school, and after several appeals in civil court, he walked free."
There are a few different cases that arguably meet this description; I wrote about one of them here: "Students Had BDSM Sex. Male Says He Obeyed Safe Word. GMU Agreed, Expelled Him Anyway."
4. The University of Tennessee
"A student on another campus is under a Title IX investigation for a wrong answer on a quiz," said DeVos. "The question asked the name of the class Lab instructor. The student didn't know the instructor's name, so he made one up—Sarah Jackson—which unbeknownst to him turned out to be the name of a model. He was given a zero and told that his answer was 'inappropriate' because it allegedly objectified the female instructor. He was informed that his answer 'meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment.' His university opened an investigation without any complainants."
That can't be true. It's just too crazy, right? Wrong. It happened, and I wrote about it here: "Tennessee Student Accused of Sexual Harassment Because He Wrote Instructor's Name Wrong." And I posted a follow-up here: "UT Student Now Being Investigated for Sexual Harassment After Writing His Instructor's Name Wrong."
5. various colleges
"Too many cases involve students and faculty who have faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes," said DeVos.
Consider the case of Northwestern University's Laura Kipnis, whose skepticism about rules forbidding sexual relationships between students and professors led to her being investigated under Title IX: "This Prof Dared to Challenge Her Students' Views on Sex. Here's How They Retaliated."
Or the case of Louisiana State University's Teresa Buchanan: "LSU Professor Fired for Telling Jokes Is Latest Victim of College Anti-Sex Hysteria."
Or a case at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where residence advisors claimed that making jokes about Harambe, the dead gorilla and internet meme, could constitute a violation of Title IX: "UMass-Amherst: Harambe Jokes Are Racist Microaggressions, Violate Title IX."
Then there are some Title IX cases DeVos neither mentioned nor implied, but could have easily served as examples of the sort of mania that has taken hold on campuses:
6. Amherst College
A male student was expelled for sexual assault, even though he had credible evidence that his accuser had assaulted him: "Amherst Student Was Expelled for Rape. But He Was Raped, Evidence Shows."
7. Brandeis University
A gay male student accused his ex-boyfriend of sexual assault. Even though the alleged infractions—a stolen glance in the shower, a wake-up kiss—were incredibly silly, the investigator found the accused responsible for sexual misconduct: "Judge Sides with Gay Brandeis Student Guilty of 'Serious Sexual Transgression' for Kissing Sleeping Boyfriend."
8. Colorado State University-Pueblo
An athlete of color, Grant Neal, was accused of sexually assaulting a female trainer—but not by her. When questioned, the trainer said, "I'm fine and I wasn't raped." University officials pointed out that according to Title IX, they got to be the judge of that, not her. Neal was deemed guilty and expelled: "Female Student Said, 'I'm Fine and I Wasn't Raped.' University Investigated, Expelled Boyfriend Anyway."
9. University of Texas-Arlington
A gay male student claimed a classmate, Thomas Klocke, told him to "consider killing himself." The classmate denied ever saying such a thing; according to his version of events, the accuser came on to him and didn't appreciate being rejected. The gay student filed a Title IX sexual harassment complaint against Klocke, who was found responsible. He then committed suicide: "Lawsuit: Male Student Accused of Sexual Harassment for Rejecting Gay Advances Commits Suicide After Title IX Verdict."
Critics of DeVos will say that her plan to reform Title IX is some kind of giveaway to rapists. But it's not. Today, DeVos recognized a basic and obvious truth that every objective chronicler of the college rape crisis already knows: The Obama-era modifications to Title IX utterly failed to bring justice to campuses.
This is great. Let's contact her at Betsy.Devos@ed.gov and thank her for rescinding the Dear Colleague suggestion. The more of us she hears from the better so let her know today.