Home > Uncategorized > Campus “Rape Culture” Questioned by New DeVos Civil Rights Appointee Who Appears Intent on Reversing Obama’s Standards

Campus “Rape Culture” Questioned by New DeVos Civil Rights Appointee Who Appears Intent on Reversing Obama’s Standards

July 13, 2017

The United States Department of Education’s (USDOE) responsibilities include the oversight of civil rights in all education institutions, including colleges. While the Obama administration’s USDOE track record on K-12 education was horrible, it’s civil rights division did solid work on Title IX, especially when it came to addressing what some call a “rape culture” that permeates several campuses in the country. An article in today’s NYTimes by reporters Erica Green and Sheryl Gay Stolberg indicates that the Obama administration’s civil rights advances related to campus safety for women are about to be undone by the Acting Head of the Civil Rights division, Candace Jackson.

Some background: In 2011, the head of the Civil Rights division issued a “Dear Colleague” memo to colleges that included a mandate that campuses use a higher standard when they review allegations of rape on campus. As Mss. Green and Stolberg report:

The most controversial part of the 2011 guidance mandated that college officials use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which makes it easier to find students responsible than a “clear and convincing” evidence standard that some schools had been using. Advocates for the accused are pushing for Ms. Jackson to revoke the guidance and adopt the “clear and convincing” standard.

Why? Because in the judgement of those currently leading the civil rights division those accused of rape have paid too high a price!

Investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student,” Ms. Jackson argued, and students have been branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” In most investigations, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Ms. Jackson said.

Among Ms. Jackson’s assertions is that in response to the 2011 memo, college administrators handling rape allegations were “specifically told to keep looking until you find the violation”. It is unclear what evidence Ms. Jackson used to draw this conclusion or the conclusion that “90% (of accusations) fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk'”, but it IS clear to the authors of this memo who later enforced it that this was not the case:

Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s civil rights office from August 2013 through December 2016, called Ms. Jackson’s claims that investigators were told to fish for violations “patently, demonstrably untrue.” For the department to distinguish between violent and nonviolent assaults in investigations, she added, “portrays a profound misunderstanding of Title IX.”

Ms. Lhamon said investigations under her tenure turned up “jaw-dropping degrees of noncompliance” with sexual assault law.

While the legal interpretation of the 2011 memo by campuses may be unclear, but the political context of this conclusion IS clear. As Mss. Green and Stolberg note:

Appointed by Ms. DeVos in April, Ms. Jackson represented sexual assault victims as a private lawyer before joining the Education Department. She is best known for her involvement in attacks against Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, when she elevated women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault or harassment, while denouncing women who accused Mr. Trump of such behavior.

Much has been written about how evangelical Christians, like Betsy DeVos, found a way to overlook President Trump’s misogyny and misconduct and support his candidacy. But it may be that the part of the evangelical culture includes the notion that a husband has dominion over his wife translates to a legal standard where the woman needs to present a preponderance of evidence that she was coerced or even forced to have sex in order to bring a rape charge. The concluding paragraph of Mss. Green and Stolberg’s article suggests that Ms. Jackson thinks the scales of justice have tipped to far in the direction of the women on campus:

“We have a justice system where nobody demands that the system itself be weighted in favor of a plaintiff,” she said. “In principle, there is no reason to depart from setting up a Title IX discipline process on campus that is anything other than fairly balanced and doesn’t prejudge and weight the system in favor of a finding. We don’t do that in our court system, our criminal justice system, and I see no reason why we would want to do it in a campus system either.”

I’m certain that Mr. Obama’s Civil Right’s attorneys have a different take on this… as do the thousands of women who attend college.

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