Political Perspectives: On DeVos and due process

Political perspectives is a column that focuses on providing different opinions on important political issues from UNCW students.

Genevieve Guenther

Political perspectives is a column that focuses on providing different opinions on important political issues from UNCW students.

Jack DeVries, Contributing Writer

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Editor’s Note: Jack DeVries is a junior at UNCW studying business. Jack also works as a contributing writer for The Seahawk and is a frequent writer for the Political Perspectives column. All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. All suggestions and inquires may be sent via email to sld9240@uncw.edu.

 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” – Title IX

It has been 45 years since the passing of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that protects students from sexual discrimination. The wording of Title IX is very simple. In fact it is only one sentence long. Like almost all legislation, as time passes, the interpretation expands. When read as written, no federally funded university may discriminate based on sex. ­

Although under Obama and the “Dear Colleague” era, the scope of Title IX has been widened to include sexual misconduct. This forces schools to look at every case of sexual misconduct through the lens of Title IX, or sexual discrimination.

In doing so, schools have been pushed to overreach in order to find defendants guilty. While this idea may feel noble, the cost is high for the wrongly accused, whose futures can be destroyed.

Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, announced last week that guidelines, including the “Dear Colleague” letter, from the previous administration would be under review.

At George Mason University, DeVos took a stand, “One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many.”

DeVos claimed that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration had been “weaponized” against students, and most importantly, takes away their Fifth Amendment right to due process.

A lot of people don’t like DeVos, but it is hard to find anything wrong with what she said last week. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct does happen on university campuses. The people who commit such crimes should be punished to the full extent of the law, but they should also be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Yes, accused rapists deserve due process. No matter the crime, due process rights should never be taken away, especially when being accused of something so serious.

Due to the Obama administration’s changes, many college campuses have their own trial system, where the accused students are tried on the “preponderance of evidence” standard for determining guilt. This standard means that college officials only need to be 51% sure an accusation is credible in order to expel a student.

The “Dear Colleague” letter also claims that the accused and the accuser should not be allowed to cross-examine or communicate with each other. Unfortunately, in a he-said-she-said situation, these standards make it easy to find anyone guilty of anything.

However, what exactly can colleges even do when they find someone guilty, falsely or not? Simply put, they will be expelled, and often times will go to court and sue the school for breaching their own Title IX rights. According to the Washington Post and SAVE Services, “about 70 percent of these types of lawsuits filed against colleges from 1993 to 2015 ended in settlements or rulings that at least partially benefited the plaintiffs.”

Due to many legal flaws caused by the “Dear Colleague” letter, Title IX has grown out of hand. Instead of stopping institutions from sexual discrimination, campus kangaroo courts are being used to punish students. DeVos is right to deflate it back to its original essence. According to her, these changes to how sexual assault is dealt with will be made with public input, and hopefully can put an end to the rape hysteria on college campuses.