Plan to alter campus sex assault rules gets mixed reviews in Texas

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ plan is generating condemnation, praise and a wait-and-see response.


U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is planning new rules that would bolster the rights of college students accused of sexual misconduct.

The rules also would narrow the definition of sexual harassment and hold schools accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities regarding conduct on campus.

Here is some of the reaction in Texas to the plan, for which proposed rules have yet to be published:

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin: “The effect of these proposed rules will be to silence survivors, particularly those who are assaulted off campus, and allow for further intimidation and hostility. This is an embarrassment and a terrible setback. It’s crucial that when the notice and comment period does open up, folks take the opportunity to tell the U.S. Department of Education that these rules are unacceptable and fail to create an equitable system for both the accused and survivor.”

Chris Kaiser, direct of public policy and general counsel, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault: “We hope that the leaked version is not the rule that is promulgated. But if the proposed rule rolls back protections for sexual assault survivors and makes it harder to hold schools liable when they look the other way from sexual assault and harassment, we’re ready to oppose that strenuously.”

Austin lawyer Brian Roark: “The reported proposed rule changes to Title IX procedures by the Department of Education would go a long way towards restoring fairness to a process that has tilted towards being rigged against the accused, typically men. Providing for discovery procedures not currently allowed and, most importantly, cross examination of the accuser, would provide meaningful due process that is currently absent but much needed. From institutions which are founded solely on principals of discovery and intellectual rigor, we should have been expecting a commitment to fairness and accuracy all along, instead of political correctness.”

Laylan Copelin, spokesman for the Texas A&M University System : “We are going to continue on our rules as we rolled them out earlier this month until there are new regulations formally in place. Nothing has changed for us.”

Shilpa Bakre, spokeswoman for the University of Texas at Austin: “The Title IX Office is committed to supporting the university’s mission to create and maintain an educational and work environment free from all forms of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, exploitation and intimidation in which all students, faculty and staff can learn, work and thrive. We cannot speculate on proposed legislative changes to the Title IX regulations from the Department of Education but are working swiftly to understand the implications. We will review our policies when any changes are officially published and share them with the campus community.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin: “We want to ensure that survivors of sexual assault can obtain justice. The Trump administration makes that already difficult task harder. Shielding the perpetrators will keep crimes in the shadows. This approach reflects the same indifference to abuse of women as (President Donald) Trump showed in the ‘Access Hollywood’ video.”



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