Receiving over 104,000 red marks on a research paper would be a distressing call to action to any Pacific University student. Something must have gone awry. Something must have been missing.
On a grander scale, this is what Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has encountered during her time outlining new proposals for Title IX, a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
“It is clear colleges and universities across the country are concerned with some of these newly proposed Title IX regulations,” Mark Ankeny, Title IX Coordinator and Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said.
It has been nearly six months since President Donald Trump’s administration expressed their plans to change the guidelines for how institutions respond to allegations of sexual harassment, including sexual assault. On Nov. 29, 2018 DeVos formally unveiled her proposed Title IX regulations on sexual harassment after a leaked draft surfaced two months prior.
These regulations sparked controversy, especially given the timing of the #MeToo movement and the sensitive nature of their subject matter. Alterations were aimed at reversing many Obama-era policy guidelines on anti-discrimination laws, that lead to what some deem an overcompliance by universities to protect potential victims.
“One of the biggest changes, and one that has received a lot of commentary, is the concept of cross examination in sexual harassment cases,” Ankeny said. “Creating a sort of miniature courtroom experience, accused individuals would be allowed, through a lawyer or adviser, to cross-examine their accuser.”
Ankeny explains this proposed alteration is very concerning in terms of victims of assault feeling comfortable coming forward with their experience and allegation. Though he notes this proposal is one some have been championing since the Obama administration, known for discouraging such action.
Other controversial proposals under Title IX include establishing a more specific definition for sexual harassment, responding to only formal complaints of harassment and adopting new requirements related to grievance procedures.
Critics and advocates of these changes vocalized their comments via the 60-day public comment period, which was initially set to end on Jan. 28.
However, due to a technological glitch on the website, according to NBC News, the Department of Education (DOE) accepted comments for an one additional day on Feb. 15. Though after receiving over 100,000 comments, both positive and negative notes Ankeny, there was little left to address.
Grievances and messages of support will now be read by the DEO in during a long process of finalization, with all “red marks” being considered by DeVos and her team. All of these revisions are expected to last through the remainder of this academic year, Pacific’s implementation to follow accordingly.