After criticizing Obama-era guidelines for how colleges handle sexual assault, President Donald Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, rolled back those guidelines and announced temporary rules designed to protect the rights of the accused.
What stays the same
- Schools must respond to sexual assault on campus if it interferes with a student’s ability to participate in school, even if the alleged victim doesn’t want to file a complaint.
- Schools must have a grievance process that gives both sides a chance to present evidence and call witnesses.
- Schools must appoint a “Title IX coordinator” to handle claims of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct. Title IX is a 1972 law that prohibits any school that receives federal funding — including Loyola — from discriminating on the basis of sex.
- Schools are still allowed to use informal resolutions, such as mediation, for some forms of gender-based misconduct — such as stalking or harassment — if both parties agree. Mediation is a guided conversation between both parties designed to resolve the conflict without a grievance process.
What could change
- Schools are now allowed to review evidence in two ways. The Obama-era guidelines told schools to use a less strict standard of evidence called the “preponderance of evidence standard,” which some said forced schools to assume the accused is guilty. Schools are still allowed to use that standard, but also have the option to use the more strict “clear and convincing evidence standard.”
- Schools can’t use fixed rules that favor one party or another when protecting alleged victims during an investigation, and can’t deny similar protections to the accused. Protections include counseling, extra time for school, police protection, limits on contact between parties and leaves of absence, if necessary.
- Schools may use informal mediation instead of a formal grievance process “if it is appropriate.” Earlier guidelines explicitly prohibited schools from using informal mediation in cases of sexual assault, but not in other kinds of gender-based misconduct. The interim rules do not explicitly prohibit the use of mediation in sexual assault cases.
What does this mean for Loyola?
In an email to students, Loyola’s Office of the Dean of Students restated its commitment to fair gender-based misconduct procedures, saying its procedures will not be affected.
Two laws could limit what can change at Loyola:
- The Illinois Preventing Sexual Assault in Higher Education Act, passed in 2015, contains many of the same rules as the old guidelines. Under this law, schools must use the more lenient “preponderance of evidence standard” and must have a procedure to determine protective measures for alleged victims.
The Violence Against Women Act, which requires schools to report and track gender-based misconduct, is still in effect, so Loyola will continue to track and report complaints.