New Title IX rules for sexual assault and harassment on college campuses were released on Wednesday after years of research, public input, and deliberation, according to a press release by the United States Department of Education.
The new rules "define sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sex discrimination." They seek to improve how schools address sexual harassment and assault, while providing numerous protections for those accused of misconduct and crimes.
"This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process," Betsy DeVos, secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement.
These critics argue that various measures, while purporting to support survivors of sexual assault and harassment, will actually deter students from reporting their experiences. The new rules remove the 60-day time limit schools have for addressing cases of sexual assault and harassment, allowing proceedings to go on indefinitely; allow those accused to handpick representatives to cross-examine survivors; dismiss all cases of sexual assault and harassment that occur outside of school buildings; and give religious universities extensive exemptions.
Betsy DeVos, secretary of the Department of Education.
Advocacy groups vow to challenge the rules in court to prevent them from taking effect.
"DeVos’ Title IX rule makes it easier for schools to ignore cases of sexual violence and sweep sexual assault under the rug," advocacy group Know Your IX wrote on Twitter.
Title IX aims to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex in higher education and has been embroiled in controvery for failing to live up to its promise since it was enacted in 1972.
The measure came under renewed scrutiny during the presidency of Barack Obama, when his administration worked to hold schools accountable for failing to adequately address campus sexual assault and harassment. High profiles cases of campus rape generated significant momentum for reforming the rules to ensure that survivors received justice.
Under DeVos’ direction, the Department of Education has rolled back numerous Title IX protections enacted by the Obama administration, including rules to protect transgender students.
The new rules on sexual assault and harassment further curtail student rights, according to critics.
"Make no mistake," Mark Warner, US senator from Virginia, wrote on Twitter. "This rollback of protections for survivors of sexual assault and harassment recklessly violates the intent behind Title IX and will undoubtedly make students less safe."