DeVos is right?!

Yes– when it comes to campus sexual assault.  Loved seeing this headline from Lara Bazelon in the NYT Op-Ed, as I have the same sentiments:

I’m a Democrat and a Feminist. And I Support Betsy DeVos’s Title IX Reforms.

No, the reforms aren’t perfect.  But being a feminist and wanting women to feel safe on campus does not mean eschewing due process and accepting the very bad repercussions that follow from that.  Bazelon:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s proposed regulations overhauling how colleges handle sexual assault, which may become law in January, are far from perfect. But there is a big reason to support them: I’m a feminist and a Democrat, and as a lawyer I have seen the troubling racial dynamics at play under the current Title IX system and the lack of due process for the accused. Ms. DeVos’s proposals take important steps to fix these problems…

We represent low-income students of color in California who face expulsion based on allegations of sexual assault.

We see what the Harvard Law School professor Janet Halley described in a 2015 law review article: “The general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them.” That’s why the DeVos regulations are a step forward.

Here is how they would work. Cross-examination would be conducted by an adviser for the accused (not, as some coverage has erroneously said, by the accused.) The accuser may sit in a separate room or participate via videoconference. The right to cross-examine goes both ways: The accused must also answer questions posed by the accuser’s adviser.

The changes would also do away with the problematic “single investigator system” where the person who interviews the witnesses and gathers the facts also serves as the judge and jury — a method the California State University System uses for its 485,000 students across 23 campuses…

The revisions are in line with court decisions that have characterized the current system as unfair. In August, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, ruling in a case from Michigan, declared that if a public university adjudicates what is essentially a “he said, she said” case, “the university must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and adverse witnesses in the presence of a neutral fact-finder.” This year, two California appellate courts have overturned university decisions to suspend students for committing sexual assault because their procedures were so lacking in basic due process…

The Obama rules were written to address a real problem: a tendency by colleges to sweep sexual assault allegations under the rug. But it also gave risk-averse schools incentives to expel the accused without any reliable fact-finding process.

The Office of Civil Rights does not collect data on race in Title IX cases, but the little we know is disturbing: An analysis of assault accusations at Colgate, for example, found that while only 4.2 percent of the college’s students were black in the 2012-13 school year, 50 percent of the sexual-violation accusations reported to the school were against black students, and blacks made up 40 percent of the students who went through the formal disciplinary process.

We have long over-sexualized, over-criminalized and disproportionately punished black men. It should come as no surprise that, in a setting in which protections for the accused are greatly diminished, this shameful legacy persists.

Good stuff.  Also encouraging to see lots of liberal support in the thoughtful comments (yes, NYT, the one place you find thoughtful on-line comments) on the piece.

Meanwhile, though it actually came out a couple months ago, I just listened to this Radiolab “In the No” episode that featured a discussion about the nature of campus sexual assault and the myriad grey areas involved.  The problem is treating an issue that is so often truly ambiguous as if it is always a clear black/white issue.  Now, sometimes it is, of course.  But pretending that an alcohol-fueled, seemingly consensual, then regretted hook-up (for the record, you can absolutely give consent while intoxicated; not while incapacitated) is the same as a rape is not the solution.

 

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