(Headline USA) The Biden administration proposed a dramatic overhaul of campus sexual assault rules on Thursday that would revert back to widely criticized Obama-era tactics that widen colleges’ responsibilities in addressing allegations of sexual misconduct.
The revised policy opens the door once for the partisan Justice Department once more to use the threat of federal oversight to force schools to submit to their will on a broad spectrum of woke cultural demands—many of which the schools themselves are more than happy to comply to.
The definition of sexual harassment would be expanded to cover a wider range of misconduct. Schools would be required to address any misconduct that creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct arises off campus. Most college employees would be required to notify campus officials if they learn of potential sex discrimination.
The proposal also would eliminate a rule requiring colleges to hold live hearings to judge sexual misconduct cases. Live hearings would be allowed under the new policy, but colleges could to appoint a campus “decision-maker” to evaluate evidence and assess students’ credibility.
However, the move raise alarm bells among civil libertarians that accusees—many of them male students—may yet again be denied due process when facing often spurious claims, as was the case when Rolling Stone magainze, in coordination with the Obama DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights, fabricated a story that accused a fraternity at the University of Virginia of gang rape.
Less publicized but equally shocking horror stories were commonplace under the previous policy, with many falsely accused students still dealing with the ramifications.
“This new proposal is a non-starter for student and faculty rights,” said Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
“These regulations eliminate the right to live hearings, eliminate the right to cross-examination, weaken protections for free speech, and authorize schools to deny students the right to have the active assistance of a lawyer,” Cohn added. “That’s a recipe for constitutional violations that courts are unlikely to ignore.”
The proposal, announced on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX women’s rights law, is intended to dismantle the set of rules issued during the Trump administration by then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation’s students—no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love—can learn, grow, and thrive in school,” said woke Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
As a presidential candidate, Biden had promised a quick end to DeVos’ rules, saying they would “shame and silence survivors.”
In announcing its proposal, Biden’s Education Department said DeVos’ rules “weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination.”
Nothing in the 1972 law explicitly addresses the topic, but the new proposal would clarify that the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It would make clear that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX,” according to the department.
More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later, the department said.
However, the radical maneuver is almost certain to be challenged by conservatives, and it is expected to lead to new legal battles over the rights of transgender students in schools, especially in sports.
In expanding the policy to apply to transgender students, critics have argued that Biden’s approach defeats the purpose of the original Title IX law to provide gender equity, instead granting biologically male students access to protections once earmarked exclusively for women.
Amid growing backlash, FINA, the regulatory body that oversees international swimming competitions, announced recently that it would ban trans swimmers who began their treatments after the onset of puberty.
If the proposal is finalized, it would mark the second rewrite of federal Title IX rules in two years. The whiplash has left many schools scrambling to adopt ever-changing rules.
Some have pressed for a political middle ground that will protect students without prompting new rules every time the White House changes power.
“It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest to have this ping-pong effect of changing rules every five years,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. “That’s just not a good way to get things done. It’s very difficult for everyone involved.”
The proposal now faces a public feedback period before the Biden administration can finalize any changes, meaning the earliest that the policy is likely to take effect is next year. Comments are submitted via the website Regulations.gov, although the proposals in question had yet to be posted as of Thursday afternoon.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press