Assault on Title IX

The number of reported rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses has been on the rise in recent years but not because of more attacks, according to officials. The increase is attributed to enforcement mandates issued by the Obama administration in 2011 requiring colleges and universities to take reported assaults more seriously or risk losing funding under the anti-discrimination Title IX.

But that directive itself is now under assault by the Trump administration after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a speech that the department would review the “Dear Colleague” letter from the previous administration amid what she says are increasing reports of overzealous enforcement that is making “more victims” out of accused assailants.

The change in official tone is alarming to victims’ advocates who say the shift would bring back the days of more than 9 out of 10 rapes on college campuses going unreported out of fear and peer pressure. The advocates say the Obama administration sent a strong message that it has your back while the current administration sends the signal to watch your back.

The advocates say while DeVos couched her undefined plan in terms of fairness for all, she and her subordinates have adopted the charged terminology of conservatives who say the Title IX enforcements are overreach as part of a liberal agenda.

In the speech at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, DeVos focused on ways the rules take away due process for the accused. She said many students accused by victims are unaware of the details of the charges and have little recourse to defend themselves.

“It is no wonder so many call these proceedings ‘kangaroo courts,’” DeVos said. “Washington’s push to require schools to establish these quasi-legal structures to address sexual misconduct comes up short for far too many students.”

Officials in the education department have been laying the groundwork for the changes. Earlier this summer, Candice Jackson, head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which investigates Title IX violations, said the system is unfair to the accused. She cited the length of investigations – there are roughly 500 open cases which have been pending for an average of more than 700 days. She said the longest open case came from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and was reported more than five years ago.

Jackson told the New York Times that, in most investigations, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Jackson said.

But victims’ advocates say those are straw-man arguments that have little basis in reality.

“Either the department hasn’t done its homework or it is purposefully misrepresenting the current state of law for its own ideological ends. And that’s a huge shame,” Alexandra Brodsky, a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, said. “It doesn’t help anyone to roll back guidance that articulates robust rights for both survivors and accused students.”

Even with the Obama-era guidelines, it is impossible to get a handle on college rape, with no definitive number on how many occur, only that there is a consensus that it happens more than the numbers show. While most surveys show more than 11 percent of students – as high at 40 percent at some schools – reported being the victim of a sexual assault, in 2015, 89 percent of college campuses reported no rapes.

But more and more, the narrative of unfairness for the accused is beginning to grow louder and drown out the advocates’ cries that the protections, when properly enforced, help current and future victims. The Atlantic this week began a three-part series on campus sexual assault with the subtext of questioning the efficacy of the Title IX guidelines.

There is some agreement that perhaps the official guidance could use some tweaking but those on the side of victims are not convinced that the nuances can be handled by an administration where the president himself has questionable attitudes toward women and is perceived, by his own admission, as engaging in unwanted sexual advances.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

A Herald editorial scolds the pro-pot lobby for its continued whining about one thing or another related to the rollout of retail marijuana sales.

Massachusetts tax collections are again below benchmark in August. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence S. DiCara and Vincenzo Malo ask where have all the children gone in central and western Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

Hudson officials are mulling a proposal to turn the vacant former police headquarters into affordable housing. (MetroWest Daily News)

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt says the city is already seeing benefits from a $5 million redesign of Peabody Square. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

In a prepared statement prior to his closed door testimony before a Senate panel, Donald Trump, Jr., said he met with a Russian attorney with ties to the Kremlin because he was seeking information that might show Hillary Clinton was unfit to be president. (New York Times)

After reaching agreement with Democrats on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and expedite relief aid for Hurricane Harvey, President Trump said he may seek more deals with the minority party rather than trying to push Republicans into passing his agenda. (New York Times) Five former presidents join in an appeal for donations for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Reducing or eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage interest — long criticized as a giveaway to those with higher-incomes — could be on Trump tax-reform agenda, but Renee Loth says it will take lots of political courage for Congress to go along. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Beth Lindstrom says she’s sticking with the race for US Senate despite some Republicans urging her to now jump into the contest for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Niki Tsongas. (Boston Globe)

Payton Corbett, endorsed by the ultra-progressive, Bernie Sanders-inspired group Our Revolution in his bid to knock off fairly progressive Somerville mayor Joe Curtatone, has posted some fairly unprogressive things on Facebook over the years. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Could Boston land Amazon’s “second headquarters,” where the company plans to employ up to 50,000 people? (Boston Globe) Probably not, says Scott Kirsner, citing the region’s high cost of living. (Boston Globe)

Credit monitoring company Equifax said a security breach earlier this year resulted in the exposure of personal information, including Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses, for 143 million people. (U.S. News & World Report)

DraftKings and FanDuel pay a total of $2.6 million in a settlement with Attorney General Maura Healey. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

A Martha’s Vineyard man has floated a proposal supported by school officials to levy a ferry toll on passengers and cars to and from the island to help pay for renovating the high school. (Cape Cod Times)

Boston saw a decline — not an increase — in on-time performance by school buses on the first day the system used a new scheduling and route model developed at MIT, but some caution that the first day of school may not be a fair test of the system. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Sen. Elizabeth Warren throws her support behind single-payer health care. (Boston Globe)  Warren questions Gov. Charlie Baker at a health care hearing in Washington and the two agree on a lot. (MassLive) Baker tells senators he wants to create a fund to stabilize insurance rates in Massachusetts if the Trump administration ends the Obamacare subsidies that insurers and lower-income consumers rely on. (Boston Globe)

Berkshire Medical Center files a labor complaint against the Massachusetts Nurses Association. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA rolls out its latest privatization effort — transit ambassadors. (CommonWealth)

Luis Ramirez, the incoming MBTA general manager, says customer concerns will be a top priority and he plans to hire a high-ranking official whose job will have that focus. (Boston Globe)

Federal railroad officials have joined the investigation of incident on Wednesday when the last car of an MBTA commuter rail train became detached from a moving train. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Federal regulators found two cybersecurity violations at the troubled Pilgrim nuclear power plant. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

An 86-year-old dementia patient at a Randolph nursing home was beaten to death and his 58-year-old roommate, also suffering from dementia, has been charged with the homicide. (Patriot Ledger)

The former director of the daycare center at Bridgewater State University was placed on three years probation after she admitted to sufficient facts to child endangerment charges. She ignored warnings about rape allegations against a worker and failed to file mandated abuse reports. (The Enterprise)

The Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments yesterday in a case challenging the use of public funds from the Community Preservation Act for a church restoration project on the grounds that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia retracted his challenge to the Herald News to release the full audio of an interview he gave regarding an FBI investigation and he also apologized to editors for his demand as well as for social media posts he made attacking the paper for a story it published based on the interview. (Herald News)

Northeastern University journalism professor and media critic Dan Kennedy said while everyone points fingers at Facebook for its stranglehold on people’s online lives, don’t overlook Google’s ubiquitous reach. (WGBH)

The Boston Globe’s ever-shrinking Capital section has disappeared entirely. It started out as a 12-page special section in June 2014, dipped to eight pages later that year, and then ended up as a one-pager. Now it’s gone entirely; the only survivor is the Capital Source half-page column of short, gossipy items.

  • tc1000

    I always thought that liberals placed great importance on protecting the rights of the accused to due process,
    presumption of innocence, and the right to counsel. Apparently, I was mistaken since you criticize Secretary DeVos
    for reconsidering the Obama Administration Title IX “guidance letter” (which was issued without the notice and comment process required by the Administrative Procedures Act) which “encouraged” educational institutions that
    receive federal funds to adopt adjudicatory policies that deny all such necessary procedural safeguards.
    Allowing unqualified college administrators to serve as judge, jury and executioner of those accused of sexual misconduct violates fundamental fairness and basic American legal principles.

    Rape is a serious crime and when alleged should only be investigated and prosecuted by duly qualified legal authorities – not by college administrators fearful of incurring the wrath of feminist activists and DOE bureaucrats.