EDITORIAL: UA must resist weakening of Title IX protection
The U.S. Department of Education released new guidelines last September regarding Title IX for universities that receive federal funding.
However, the guidelines at best give institutions an easy way out when dealing with difficult issues like sexual violence.
At worst, these new measures are completely dismantling the equality the rules were originally meant to enforce.
First, the new guidelines proposed by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, would allow universities to use a higher standard of proof for determining whether or not a sexual assault has occurred.
While the Education Department argues this change is to prevent false accusations and protect the rights of those being accused, the actual effect will be much more damaging to women trying to report an attack.
Already, sexual assaults are often a “he said, she said” event, with issues of consent and outside factors like alcohol or drug consumption often playing a role.
Forcing women to meet an even higher standard of proof than is currently required will result in fewer women coming forward with their claims if they can’t provide “clear and convincing evidence” of what happened.
The new guidelines also enable universities to only allow the accused to appeal a decision in a Title IX hearing.
Therefore, if a survivor of an assault doesn’t like the result, they have no recourse. But if the accused doesn’t like the result, they will have a way to receive an additional hearing.
This creates a blatant double standard, and one that is implicitly based on gender, due to the fact that the vast majority of sexual assaults are by men against women.
Under previous Title IX rules laid out by the Obama administration, accusers did not have to face the accused under a direct cross examination, which can be a traumatizing experience for someone who has been assaulted.
Now, accusers can be subjected to a barrage of questions from the same person who is accused of attacking them in the first place, which could easily lead to more trauma.
While those being accused of a crime or other violations that could have huge consequences on their lives should absolutely have the ability to defend themselves and appeal their decision, there are no compelling reasons to allow direct confrontation, or to take the right of appeal away from the accuser if the initial hearing does not go in their favor.
By also requiring standards usually reserved in criminal cases, even though Title IX is a civil law, the accused are receiving unfair advantages under the new guidelines.
The University of Arizona must resist making changes that will unduly harm students making a claim of sexual violence.
Wherever possible, it must uphold the stronger standards for those filing complaints, while still exploring ways to provide proper due process to those facing claims.
University officials must also be more open and forthright with information, and use all possible venues and forums to make sure that students and employees know their rights during an investigation.
The Daily Wildcat attempted to contact the office on campus which oversees Title IX compliance for more than a year before finally securing the interview which led to the story published this week.
Critical information about these guidelines, as well as how to report an incident and other important data, was not shared with our audience sooner due to this extended delay.
Given the current climate on campus, with multiple claims, lawsuits and charges against faculty and students stemming from sexual misconduct, the UA must do everything in its power to create a culture that encourages a fair Title IX process for everyone involved.
Sexual violence is already statistically underreported, and creating more barriers and hoops to overcome will only increase the number of incidents that go unpunished.
The UA, under President Dr. Robert Robbins, has expressed a commitment to combat sexual violence in and ensure its processes are fair and equitable. According to university officials, no changes have yet been made under the new guidelines.
The university must hold true to having a Title IX process that meets the needs of the community, and ensure it is adequately answering questions and providing the services and protections needed to keep everyone on campus safe.
Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board and are written by its members. They are Editor-in-chief Courtney Talak, Opinions Editor Andrew Paxton, Content Editor Marissa Heffernan, Engagement Editor Saul Bookman and Arts & Life Editor Pascal Albright. Follow Daily Wildcat on Twitter.