5 Terrifying Facts About Devos’ Campus Sexual Assault Rules

Noted Cruella de Vil impersonator Betsy Devos is at it again, destroying any equality left in the American educational system. Looks like she’s taking a break from trying to give guns to teachers to work on her second fav project: making it easier for people accused of assault to stay on campus. Devos’ proposed revamp of campus sexual assault regulations were leaked recently, and she seems bent on applying the Republican dogma of deregulation to the investigatory and adjudicatory processes addressing sexual assault in schools. If these rules take effect, expect fewer assaults reported and investigated, and far fewer accused men found guilty. Buckle up, because this shit is so distressing I don’t even have that many jokes to make in this recap.  

1. These rules undo basically everything Obama did.

Like most members of the Trump administration, one of Devos’ great joys in life appears to be putting all of Obama’s positive contributions to society through a paper shredder. In keeping with this ethos, she rescinded his administration’s acclaimed Dear Colleague letter last fall, and the new rules permanently revoke his guidelines. The letter had tied colleges’ handling of sexual misconduct to their ability to access federal funds, so Devos’ move allows universities to ignore victims and still rake in federal dollars. At least until Trump cuts the DOE budget to fund his next private jet, I mean Air Force One, purchase.

2. They redefine sexual harassment.

Devos’ regulations include a complete redefinition of the term sexual harassment, which would no longer mean “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” but only be used to refer to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education.” By raising the standard of what constitutes sexual assault laughably high, this redefinition would effectively deny victims of a vast array of harassment any recourse. The rules also allow schools to choose whether to use “a preponderance” or a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence.

In addition to redefining sexual harassment itself, Devos’ policy proposals also transform the case resolution process, allowing both parties in any case to request evidence from each-other, see every piece of evidence gathered, and cross-examine each other. To be clear, this means accused rapists could cross-examine their victims, which sounds like one of the only things potentially more traumatizing than a three-way phone call.  

3. They take responsibility away from universities.

Instead of holding universities responsible for investigating any sexual assaults of one university student by another student or teacher, Devos’ rules only hold universities accountable for assaults that occur on campus. This means schools could decline to investigate a rapist who assaults girls at an off-campus frat house, or a professor who invites a student to their home and assaults them. Also, schools would be allowed to decide whether to have an appeals process. If your rapist is found innocent under the new standard of evidence, you literally can’t appeal.

4. They’re not really rules, they’re laws.

Devos’s “rules” would hold the force of law, so the term ‘rule’ is basically a euphemism here. After a public comment period, the regulations would go into full effect without ever being legislated into law by Congress. The Department of Education has previously only issued guidelines, and has never before instituted sexual harassment policy as law.

5. They would affect ongoing, high profile investigations.

There are multiple sexual assault lawsuits pending against universities that literally feel ripped out of an episode of Scandal, and Devos’ new policies would affect how these suits play out. Over six women are suing the University of Southern California for continuing to employ a gynecologist who they allege has been “inappropriately touching” his patients since the 90s. This is some Nassar-level shit, and I am really starting to wonder how hard it could possibly be to hire a gynecologist who will not molest his patients for decades?! It really can’t be that hard. Anyway, this is the kind of lawsuit that Devos’ regulations could let universities off the hook for, since they will no longer have to investigate anything they did not have “actual knowledge” of via a complaint made to a school official, as opposed to the current standard of anything the “school knows, or reasonably should know, about.”

If you would like to avoid a future in which most sexual assault is basically unprosecutable on campus, send the DOE some hate mail – sorry, submit your opinion for consideration – to the Federal Register at this link during the public comment period between Devos’ official announcement and the moment the rules become law. Basically, go forth and talk shit about Devos before our colleges start resembling Gilead.

Heads up, you need to keep up with the news. It’s not cute anymore. That’s why we’ve created a 5x weekly newsletter called The ‘Sup that will explain all the news of the week in a hilarious af way. Because if we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying. Sign up for The ‘Sup now!

All The People Who Are Suing Betsy DeVos Right Now

Amid the shitstorm otherwise known as current events in 2018, it is easy to focus on impending nuclear war, everyone Trump has ever met being indicted, and the Kardashians influencing government policy to the exclusion of basically all other news. Unfortunately, while that shit might get the most coverage, the few Trump appointees who have managed not to be fired by tweet or indicted for collusion are still hard at work destroying our freedoms. You might remember rich girl and education non-expert Betsy Devos from like, one thousand scandals ago. DeVos is currently heading up the Department of Education, and is at the forefront of dismantling civil rights for students. Apparently, even children are not safe from Republicans’ Regina George-esque affinity for ruining lives. Luckily, American citizens are not having it, and are fighting back via the 2018 liberal clapback – lawsuits, obviously. Let’s dig into all the illegal shit Devos’ Department of Education is currently being sued for.

Ignoring Repeated Civil Rights Complaints

This March, the Office of Civil Rights, the division of the DOE charged with investigating claims of race and disability-based discrimination, updated their case processing policy. The changes allow the OCR to decline to investigate complaints that the office finds too “financially burdensome” to pursue. According to the OCR, the change is intended to prevent repeat complainants from filing the same claim multiple times, creating unnecessary pressure on the OCR. So basically, the DOE thinks repeated instances of racism in schools are too expensive to look into. Meanwhile, half of Trump’s cabinet members spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on private flights and lavish office furniture. Glad to see this administration has its priorities straight!

In response to these blatantly racist and ableist policy reforms, the NAACP, National Federation of the Blind, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates are jointly suing the DOE and DeVos herself. According to NAACP spokesperson Malik Russell, not only does the suit allege that the OCR “decided to abandon” its literal mission to “investigate racial, gender or disability discrimination complaints,” but it changed its policy without giving the officially mandated advance notice to the public, which would have allowed groups like the NAACP to attempt to pre-empt the change by pointing out that it’s you know, dumb, evil, and illegal. Wait, a Trump government body didn’t follow official regulations when rolling out a new policy? Color me shocked.

Ignoring Transgender Students’ Rights

Providing further proof that the vast majority of Trump staffers literally can’t read, a DOE spokesperson told Buzzfeed in February that “restroom complains from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX.” She said this despite the fact that multiple courts have previously ruled that this is exactly what that law does. The DOE staff apparently plans to “consider the legal issues” since being called out, but as that would require a working knowledge of the law, I somehow doubt they will come to any genius conclusions.

Siding With For Profit Colleges Instead of Students

Because Betsy and her fellow Republicans love nothing more than money, it should come as no surprise that her DOE is siding with for profit colleges instead of the students they defrauded. Early in her tenure as DOE head, DeVos canceled Obama-era regulations that guarded students against for-profit colleges that conned students into paying tuition fees without giving them actual educations or useful degrees. A group of students is now suing the DOE for allegedly using their Social Security data to prevent them from receiving government relief on student loans they took out for these fraudulent colleges. Oh and by the way, DeVos herself has invested in the for-profit college industry. No conflict of interest to see here!

Rolling Back Sexual Assault on Campus Regulations

If you thought the DOE would be content with ensuring that racial discrimination complaints go un-investigated, transgender students are prevented from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, and low-income students have their money stolen from massive companies, you’d be wrong. Betsy’s DOE has also set its sights on dismantling Obama era sexual assault on campus reforms. The Victim Rights Law Center and Equal Rights Advocates are suing the DOE for abdicating their responsibility to protect victims of sexual violence and reinforcing gender stereotypes by implying that women’s sexual assault complaints are not valid.

Remember the Biden video about campus assault that made everyone cry? DeVos thinks that shit is lame, and is obsessed with the due process rights of accused rapists. So to recap, accused rapists and not students of color or victims of assault are definitely the group most in need of legal protection. This one is almost too depressing to make up jokes about.

DeVos called the Obama administration Title IX reforms that protected assault victims and promised them investigations a “failed system,” ostensibly because it failed to be nice enough to rapists. Her DOE also officially rescinded the Obama administration “Dear Colleague” letter, which installed “preponderance of evidence” as the standard of proof during assault investigations and demanded universities begin investigating complaints soon after they are entered. To top it all off, one of her staffers told the New York Times that 90% of assault accusations are made because both parties were drunk. I thought we resolved that being blackout doesn’t mean I asked for it a few years ago, but since Republicans’ ultimate goal appears to be returning us to the 1950s I guess I should shut up and be grateful I can still buy Plan B over the counter.

Thank you, lawyers with moral compasses and actual degrees.

I wish the people in charge of educating our nation’s children appeared to have received more than a 2nd grade education themselves. However, we can take a little comfort in the fact that the repeated public idiocy of DOE officials indicates that the actually educated lawyers taking them on in court can hopefully fucking destroy them legally.

Heads up, you need to keep up with the news. It’s not cute anymore. That’s why we’ve created a 5x weekly newsletter called The ‘Sup that will explain all the news of the week in a hilarious af way. Because if we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying. Sign up for The ‘Sup now!