Jacques: Don’t conflate Nassar scandal with Title IX reforms
Democrats are rarely so giddy as when they get to grill Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She’s been in the hot seat before Congress quite a bit lately to discuss her budget as well as other proposals to right-size a sprawling department.
DeVos is also getting raked over the coals for reworking Obama-era guidelines governing Title IX campus sexual assault investigations. She’s been called a defender of rapists and much worse.
Add new Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, to the list of her disingenuous detractors.
In light of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Slotkin held a meeting last week with survivors and experts to talk about strengthening Title IX protections and the impacts of DeVos’ proposed changes.
Slotkin has openly criticized any alterations to the former rules, and has called on DeVos to meet with victims of Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor who assaulted hundreds of women and girls for decades.
“Almost immediately after being sworn in, I arrived in Washington and learned the details of Secretary DeVos’ proposed changes on Title IX,” Slotkin said at the event last week. “As the person now representing Michigan State University in Congress, it got my attention because the secretary’s proposed changes were, to me, the opposite of the lessons we learned from what happened at Michigan State.”
Perhaps DeVos should meet with some of these women.
But what happened at MSU is vastly different from most of the campus assault investigations that administrators oversee. Those tend to be incidents between students, and under the former framework male students had little ability to defend themselves. That’s led to students getting suspended or even expelled, and the accusations of sexual assault follow them for life, without getting to fully answer the accusations.
DeVos is working to bring due process to these campus tribunals, which is not only a more balanced approach but it’s now being mandated by several federal court rulings. A decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals last fall dealt with a case out of the University of Michigan and impacts all universities in the jurisdiction. That opinion made it clear administrators must allow for cross-examination, among other measures, to protects students’ constitutional rights.
Similarly, this is what DeVos’ new rules do. And her team has undertaken the hard work of going through the official rule-making process. That included putting the rules up for public comment, and the department is still wading through the thousands it received.
Slotkin, who seems one of the more reasonable new Democrats in Congress, is supposed to meet with DeVos next month. They should hear each other out with a goal of creating a system that helps prevent abuse and ensures a fair process for all students involved.