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Editor’s Note: To fight campus assault, use prevention

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

First lady Sue Snyder has made tackling campus sexual assault her main cause, and on Monday she hosted the third annual summit aimed at preventing misconduct at Michigan’s universities. The event was held at Eastern Michigan University.

“Michigan is a national leader in addressing campus sexual assault, and I’m excited to continue these important conversations to make our state’s campuses — our students’ homes away from home — safer,” Snyder said in a statement.

The first lady is on the right track at a time when the federal government is doing a major overhaul of its campus sexual assault policy.

On Friday, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights officially rescinded its 2011 Title IX guidelines that forced universities to act as police and judge in assault allegations and use a weaker preponderance of evidence standard for determining guilt. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had announced earlier in the month this would be coming in a detailed speech outlining shortfalls and the lack of due process in current procedures. She further elaborated on her decision at last weekend’s Michigan Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island.

“The time of ‘Washington knows best’ is over,” DeVos told attendees.

Snyder’s event this week was a bipartisan effort, co-hosted by state Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, and state Reps. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, and Kristy Pagan, D-Canton.

It’s encouraging to see that kind of collaboration to work through a complicated problem facing college students and administrators.

And it is especially refreshing after knee-jerk Democratic opposition to DeVos’ policy reversal.

“Secretary DeVos’ announcement is an outrageous affront to survivors of sexual assault across this country,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said last week.

What’s outrageous was the Obama-era directive which was blatantly skewed against accused students — something that has been acknowledged across the political spectrum.

DeVos wants to hear from the public as her department starts to revamp the rules, and she already met with Snyder this spring to discuss the work being done in Michigan.

Promoting education and awareness to prevent campus assault is a good first step. The next should be ensuring fair treatment of all students involved in these investigations.