It does not take too much reading of the tea leaves to come to a belief that the Obama administration’s campus sexual assault initiatives (as most notoriously represented by the “Dear Colleague Letters” issued by DOE’s Office for Civil Rights) are going to be gutted by the Trump administration.
What is the basis for this assertion? Two recent independent items give rise to this conclusion.
The first item arose during Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearings for the post of Secretary of Education. During the hearings Ms. DeVos was asked whether she would preserve the DCL’s that were instituted by the Obama administration as a part of its campus sexual assault initiative. Ms. DeVos declined to directly indicate whether she would preserve the DCL’s. Rather she essentially testified that she would like to review the matter further before drawing conclusions about whether the Obama administration’s initiatives would be continued
“I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that and, if confirmed, I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions, and understand the views of the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them, and I would look forward to finding some resolutions.
If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and the current situation, better and to ensuring the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both victims, the rights of the victims as well as those who are accused as well.”
Ms. DeVos’ testimony, standing alone, was not enough to provide a clear indication that the Obama administration’s campus sexual assault initiatives would be reversed/modified by the Trump administration.
However a second development gives credence to a rollback of Obama’s sexual assault initiative is the anticipated creation of a higher ed task force. The creation of the task force was originally reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The task force is to be headed up by Jerry Falwell Jr., the President of Liberty University. In the Chronicle’s article Mr. Falwell indicates that the anticipated charge of the task force will be to look into making changes to overreaching regulations and micromanagement by the Department of Education of institutions of higher education and give them more leeway in governing their affairs.
Although not specificially addressed in the article, it has been argued by many that the Obama administration’s DCL’s and enforcement actions surrounding sexual assault have created undue regulatory burdens and amounted to the micromanagement of higher education campus disciplinary systems. From the issues of mandating a particular burden of proof, mandating particular responsive actions that institution’s need to take when a sexual assault allegation is raised, to DOE engaging in comprehensive compliance reviews with settlement agreements that contain multi-year monitoring agreements, it doesn’t take much to concluded that the rescinding or revising Obama’s sexual assault initiative will be one of the items in the forefront of the task force’s agenda.
Although nothing has been specifically announced as of yet (although that is not surprising as Betsy DeVos was just confirmed) at this point I firmly believe that the Obama administration’s sexual assault DCL’s and enforcement actions as have been carried out are a thing of this past.
Dear reader, do you agree or have another opinion on this matter?