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