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Little change to UIS Title IX policy despite DeVos announcement

Betsy+DeVos%2C+Secretary+of+Eduction+for+the+Trump+administration
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Eduction for the Trump administration

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Eduction for the Trump administration

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Eduction for the Trump administration

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UIS officials anticipate little change in its Title IX policy, despite Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, announcing Sept. 22 that she is rescinding Obama-era guidelines on how universities should handle sexual assault.

“No changes are planned due to the interim guidance,” said UIS Title IX coordinator, Deannie Brown, in an e-mailed statement. “We are committed to providing safe and supportive environments for the well-being and academic success of all our students, including fair, objective, equitable and appropriately responsive policies and procedures.”

The Title IX amendment of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education. Different Secretaries of Education have had varied interpretations of what constitutes discrimination. These interpretations do not carry the full force of the law, but are instead meant to provide guidelines by which the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) evaluates policies.

Under the Obama administration, the OCR’s reading of Title IX was outlined in its 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter”, and stated that academic institutions must discipline those who are found to be more likely than not to have committed an offense.

Many students choose to have their universities investigate claims of sexual assault, as many cases that go through the police or the court system remain unprosecuted because they require higher standards of evidence.

DeVos’s new guidelines, however, will likely place less pressure on universities to discipline students accused of sexual assault. She has rebuked current disciplinary policies, saying that the Dear Colleague Letter turns universities into “quasi-legal structures” that doesn’t provide due process rights to neither the victim nor the accused.

Third-year student, Molly Looby, who is herself a victim of sexual violence, says that the DeVos administration doesn’t understand the reality that victims face on college campuses.

“It is very difficult to prove sexual assault happens,” she said. “Ideally, it’s good to push to arrest and put rapists in jail—that’s a good idea on paper. But, realistically, most victims want understanding and to be safe and away from what happened.”

She added that changing disciplinary procedures to a model where “legal repercussions rarely happens is dangerous [and] takes away our power.”

There are currently five open Title IX investigations for the University of Illinois system – three at Urbana Champaign and two at Chicago.

In 2010, criminal justice professor, Barbara Hayler, filed a separate complaint, alleging gender discrimination in the UIS Athletics Department regarding what justified removing male and female players from their respective teams. 

The case was eventually closed, and Brown said the girls were removed from the team after lying about why they skipped a practice.

“To date, no discrimination on the basis of gender, in violation of Title IX, and no diminishment in athletics opportunities on the basis of gender, has been found,” she wrote in a self-assessment report to the Department of Education a year after the incident.

Looby, a political science major and student worker at the Women’s Center, said that UIS has largely done a good job ensuring the safety of its students, but noted that it could do more to educate its students on the importance of bystander intervention.

“I feel safe. I feel pretty comfortable reporting things and opening up that dialogue around sexual assault,” she said. “And I think the school has done a pretty good job around that, but I do think the school could be a little better communicating [that the burden of preventing sexual assault also] falls on the students.”

 

Editor’s note: Story  correction

 The Journal reported that a 2010 Title IX complaint dealt with an accusation that two female softball players off the team after they criticized the way the university responded to an alleged sexual assault.​

However, the official complaint, as reported at the time, alleged gender-discrimination in the UIS Athletics Department.

The previously reported accusation was a separate complaint and responded to as part of a self-monitoring agreement between the University and the Office of Civil Rights.

The Journal regrets this error, and has corrected it within the story.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Little change to UIS Title IX policy despite DeVos announcement