After giving equal time to survivors of sexual assault and to men's rights activists and a rape denial group in meetings this summer, Education Secretary Betsy Devos has rescinded President Barack Obama-era guidelines under Title IX that urged colleges and universities to crack down on campus sexual assault.
DeVos, who met with a rape denial group that includes sections on "rape hoax" and "rape culture hysteria" on its website as part of her research, has continually said that the burden of proof under the Obama-era guidelines was too low and therefore unfair to the accused. The Education Department has withdrawn the "Dear Colleague" letter that pushed colleges to adopt a minimal standard of proof in cases of sexual assault and replaced the guidelines with an interim Q&A section on how to handle allegations, reports The Hill.
"This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly," DeVos said in a release, according to CNN. "Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes."
A statement from the Education Department doubled down on its commitment to the accused.
"The withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness," the statement reads, according to CNN.
Reaction to the announcement has been swift and harsh.
"This decision shows the Trump Administration's utter disregard for survivors of sexual assault," U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, said in a statement, according to The Hill. "The effect of this policy reversal will be to delegitimize and suppress the voices of survivors, who are being told by this administration that they will be met with skepticism. Shame on the Trump Administration."
When DeVos announced earlier this month that her department intended to rescind protections against campus sexual assault, LGBT groups weighed in on the how the move would adversely affect LGBT students.
"The Secretary's actions are particularly alarming for LGBTQ students: bisexual women are almost twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence than heterosexual women, and are more than twice as likely to experience intimate partner sexual assault," the National LGBTQ Task Force's director of advocacy and action, Stacey Long Simmons, said in a statement. "Nearly half (47%) of transgender people experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. On campus, LGBTQ students and students of color are at least twice as likely to be sexually assaulted or harassed, compared to their non-LGBTQ and white colleagues, and may face discrimination or harassment when reporting those crimes. Students with disabilities are among the most impacted, yet reports by students with disabilities are often ignored."
At the time of the announcement that guidelines would be rescinded, DeVos delivered a speech ready-made for the Trump administration, which is led by a man who has proudly proclaimed that he's repeatedly grabbed women without consent. She referred to campus hearings on sexual assault charges as "kangaroo courts" that force school administrators to act as "judge and jury" making decisions that could stigmatize and ruin the careers of those accused of sexual assault.
Following DeVos's announcement that she would rescind guidelines in order to further protect the accused, GLAAD tweeted, "LGBTQ students experience harassment at disproportionately high rates. This will leave them even more vulnerable."