DeVos is right to replace the Dear Colleague Letter

By on September 20, 2017
Student Opinion

By Megan Brewer —

On Sept. 7, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she wants to replace the “Dear Colleague Letter” set in place by the Obama Administration in 2011.

The  letter is  a set of guidelines that colleges must to recieve federal funding follow when a sexual assault is reported.

The rules allow colleges to punish a student accused of sexual assault without substantial evidence, making the investigation more of a he-said-she-said situation.

Colleges don’t have to perform a formal investigation that’s of the same standard as a police investigation. Even if the person isn’t convicted or arrested because authorities lack evidence, schools can punish an individual.

Schools can go as far as removing someone from the university.

There are also no rules on double jeopardy. This means an accuser can appeal if the university decides not to punish the perpetrator.

The rules always place universities on the side of the accusers during a trial.

DeVos hasn’t stated how she wants to change the rules but stated that the letter had “increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines.”

According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center, over 90 percent of victims on college campuses don’t report their assault. In a room of 30 victims, that’s 27 not reporting their assault.

Staff writer for Time Magazine Eliza Gray wrote why students of sexual assault don’t report the crime based on a study done in 2007.

Gray stated that 21 percent of victims didn’t report the assault because “they didn’t think the police would take the crime seriously” while others felt that “police would treat them poorly.”

Gray reported that over 35 percent of victims weren’t sure if their assault was actually a crime.

Gray also said individuals don’t report sexual assault because they’re scared of a public trial hitting the media.

DeVos announcing to replace these rules is the best decision.

One problem we’re facing now is many students don’t know about the letter.

At U of L, much like a lot of campuses, most students don’t know who to go to report an assault.

Students on college campuses should have a trustworthy person on campus to turn to if they are sexually assaulted.

Students also need to be better informed about who they should report to.

On the other hand, accused individuals have  little chance under the current rules.

The other issue with the guidelines is that a college can have proof isn’t up to police standard, but still choose to remove a student from a class, living area or university as a whole.

When creating the letter, the Obama Administration was trying to protect victims and make sure they are heard, but there are too many issues that came along.

There has to be a middle ground to the rules with sound evidence before another student is handed a punishment.

The way to fix the rules is not by forgetting about them entirely, but learning from them and improving.

There needs to be a more thorough investigation performed by colleges for every case.

Once these new rules are set, they need to be talked about. Students need to be made aware of what their options are.

Students need to know they have a place and a person to go to if they’re sexually assaulted.

Students also shouldn’t feel like they can get kicked out of school just because someone accuses them of assault.

Universities need to work harder to make sure students are protected when they report an assault and that everyone is given a fair trial when being accused.

About Megan Brewer

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