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College sex-crime allegations: why critics want campus reforms

| Sep 20, 2017 | Firm News

It’s a sensitive subject, to be sure, but not one that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems to be remotely shying away from.

That is amply evidenced by comments DeVos recently made concerning a topic that a New York Times article addressed in some detail earlier this month, namely, “the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault.”

Adherents of reforms that took hold on college campuses nationwide under the prior presidential tenure widely laud many changes that were introduced pursuant to suggested guidelines (and a “stick” approach as well, with the loss of federal funding being threatened for non-complying universities and colleges).

One proponent calls the changes enacted — including a lower threshold of proof for punishing alleged sexual wrongdoers — “important work to pursue justice.”

That’s not how DeVos and many more conservative assessors across the country see things. The secretary refers to campus hearings overseeing sexual allegations as “kangaroo courts” that have often failed materially in safeguarding the right of accused parties and wrought harsh punishments in the absence of guilt being firmly established.

The Obama reforms went too far in one direction, charges DeVos, who contends that, “Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach.”

The secretary pledges a rewriting of the rules in a way that she says will better protect the rights and interests of all parties. Evidence suggests that she might promote the use of independent panels — rather than school administrators — to hear complaints, as well as the implementation of a more stringent standard of proof in cases where students are accused of criminal sexual misconduct.

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