DeVos plans to make it harder to convict accused

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is planning to change how college campuses deal with sexual assault to make it harder to convict accused students because she said the system is unfair to those who might be wrongly accused. DeVos made the announcement Thursday, Sept. 7, in a speech delivered at George Mason University.

Title IX is a federal law which protects members of an educational environment from discrimination based on sex. Though a short statute, Title IX extends to include sexual assault as a form of discrimination based on sex. If a university fails to properly investigate a case of sexual assault, it is at risk of losing federal funding.

Truman’s Title IX coordinator Jamie Ball said one of DeVos’ biggest changes will be shifting the evidence procedure from a preponderance of the evidence standard to a clear and convincing standard. Ball said the preponderance of evidence standard — which has been the standard since Obama-era policies issued in 2011 — mandates the accused might be automatically guilty if more than 50 percent of the evidence points toward their guilt. The clear and convincing standard requires the evidence be far more certain than that, akin to a criminal trial with a judge and jury, Ball said. This clear and convincing standard is more lenient for the accused, and DeVos said this is to protect the accused student’s right to due process of the accused students.

At Truman, Title IX is enforced by policies that prohibit sexual discrimination and sexual violence. If a student or faculty member reports they’ve been a victim of any form of sexual exploitation, violence or harassment, the University will notify the accused and give them a chance to reply to the complaint, Ball said.

The University assembles a series of interviews and reviews photographs, videos and any other evidence pertinent to the complaint. From there, Ball makes a preliminary determination about whether or not a policy has been violated.

The administrative review panel is formed by three faculty or staff members who have been trained to handle Title IX policies and trained to be mindful of how students respond to trauma.

Ball said the administrative review panel reviews the investigation to ensure it’s as fair and complete as it can be. Ball said Truman has done a fair job at handling these cases for the accused and the victims so far.

“No matter how the law shakes out, I don’t think our moral responsibilities are going to change,” Ball said.

Ball said due process rights have always been protected, and the University will continue to be more morally conscious during issues of sexual assault and discrimination.