Home > Uncategorized > Andre Perry, Writer for The Root, Links DeVos’ Deregulation with Weinstein Accusations

Andre Perry, Writer for The Root, Links DeVos’ Deregulation with Weinstein Accusations

From time to time, the Google feed on Public Schools offers an insightful article from an unfamiliar source, and yesterday’s feed offered a particularly compelling one by Andre Perry from The Root titled “Betsy DeVos, Our Education System Produces Harvey Weinsteins and We Need to Change That.” In the article, Mr. Perry links Ms. DeVos recent decision to roll back the standard for filling complaints on sexual harassment to the recent headlines regarding the predatory behavior of Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer who used the “casting couch” to determine which female ingenues he would feature in films. Mr. Perry asserts that Ms. DeVos’ decision to set a higher bar for sexual harassment complaints will, in effect, restore the “Harvey Weinstein” culture on campus. Here’s Mr. Perry’s assessment of the changes Ms. DeVos made:

In late September, DeVos rescinded an Obama directive, also known as the “Dear Colleague Letter” (pdf), on how campuses should handle sexual assaults under Title IX, the federal policy on sexual discrimination. The letter reminded campus officials that they were responsible for preventing sexual harassment and violence, and provided examples of remedies and enforcement strategies. DeVos repealed the Obama policy largely based on a defense of people wrongfully accused of sexual assault.

“There are men and women, boys and girls, who are survivors,” DeVos said in her speech on Title IX in September. “And there are men and women, boys and girls who are wrongfully accused.”

Incredibly, DeVos used an “All victims matter” rationale to rescind the Obama directive. The speciousness of this argument is made apparent by the fact that not once did she utter the word “sexism” in her prepared remarks.

While I generally reject arguments that our education system is responsible for social ills, I am open to the idea that some practices in place in schools and colleges are. Mr. Perry makes a compelling case that the changes made by the Obama administration with regard to filing harassment complaints placed the victims in a better position to step forward with their accusations:

We should treat Weinstein as an individual monster—and as a product of our educational system. The former we cannot change, but how our schools and colleges treat victims and the accused, that we can.

President Barack Obama sought to prioritize the rights of the victims by telling colleges to allow accusers to appeal not guilty findings, to discourage cross-examination of accusers and to accelerate verdicts. Obama urged colleges to consistently use the “preponderance of evidence,” or what is more likely than not, standard in sexual assault cases. The preponderance of evidence is considered the lowest degree of evidence necessary to establish proof, which empowers women to name rapists. The higher the standard for proving an assault, the less likely it is that women will come forward.

Mr. Perry recounts the series of actions– and missteps– that led to Ms. DeVos’ decision and concludes that it is wrongheaded and reinforces the kind of macho culture that made the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world feel omnipotent and females feel powerless:

In the tussle between the powerful and the powerless, DeVos has sided with “the Man.” DeVos’ interim guidance misses the point that powerful men, even within the noblest of institutions, abuse their power to the detriment of women.

We tend to look at colleges as being progressive or conservative. But we also need to look at them as male-dominated and protecting the interests of men. Even though women make up more than 56 percent of collegians, men constitute 70 percent of college presidents.

Campuses should give victims the benefit of the doubt in cases involving sexual assault. In addition, colleges are the first and last line of defense against a criminal-justice system in which “only a quarter of all reported rapes lead to an arrest, only a fifth lead to prosecution, and only half of those prosecutions result in felony convictions,” according to Know Your IX, a survivor- and youth-led organization focused on ending sexual and dating violence. On and off-campus, due process seems to favor men.

It is sadly evident that the current POTUS is unlikely to support any change that would give due process to victims, and also evident that there are females who are willing to retain and defend the status quo. As Mr. Perry writes in his concluding paragraph, in light of the accusations leveled against Mr. Weinstein and the series of other accusations that are cascading out, the so-called “Obama standard” is necessary:

In the wake of Weinstein, what is more likely than not is the tradition of powerful academic institutions protecting male interests. The reason powerful men get away with rape and harassment is that systems protect them. And until we challenge the systems in our educational institutions, men like Weinstein will continue to find sanctuary in them.

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