Friday, February 22

UC Title IX coordinator disputes new federal stance on sexual violence policies


Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed changes to Title IX procedures in higher education. Devos has faced controversy in the past regarding her lack of experience with public schools and support of charter schools. (Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed changes to Title IX procedures in higher education. Devos has faced controversy in the past regarding her lack of experience with public schools and support of charter schools. (Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore)


The University of California Title IX coordinator said she opposes the federal government’s decision to change sexual violence and harassment policies.

Suzanne Taylor said in a statement issued Friday she will counter Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX procedures in higher education. DeVos has faced controversy in the past regarding her lack of experience with public schools and support of charter schools.

Under the proposed rules, schools would only be required to investigate the most severe cases of sexual violence and harassment. Schools would also be able to require a stricter standard of proof from the survivor, which the American Civil Liberties Union says will favor the accused.

One of the biggest changes is the definition of sexual harassment. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, it was defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” The proposed rules would define it as “unwanted conduct that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a recipient’s education program or activity.”

The ACLU, along with other prominent activists and civil rights organizations, also voiced their disapproval over these changes.

President Donald Trump’s administration has said the proposed rules would grant schools more freedom to decide their own Title IX policies.

However, Taylor said that the rules would in fact require universities to greatly alter their procedures. Schools would have to hold live hearings instead of the investigative model currently used by schools like those in the UC system.

The UC updated its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies in 2016 to require Title IX offices, instead of dean of students offices, to investigate reports of sexual assault.

Taylor said in the statement that the proposed hearings would allow representatives and lawyers of alleged assailants to cross-examine complainants, which she said would intentionally intimidate them and discourage them from coming forward by imposing additional mental trauma.

Now posted online, the proposals are subject to public comment for 60 days. Depending on public opinion, the Department of Education will then decide whether to make the rules final.

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