As US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos collects information to replace the 2011 Title IX guidance issued to colleges, it is important that she seek the perspectives of organizations experienced in best practices developed over decades of direct service work with survivors (“Revise — but don’t revoke — sex assault policy,” Editorial, Sept. 9).
The first thing these organizations will insist on is procedural justice for student survivors. This is the simple act of taking sexual violence complaints seriously and implementing transparent response policies and protocols. Over the past seven years, thanks to the 2011 Title IX guidance, many schools have done this. Indeed, it was the lack of such procedural justice that led to the Title IX guidance in the first place.
The second thing these organizations will do is remind all parties involved that it would be a mistake to insist on integrating the criminal justice system into educational institutions’ adjudication process. A 2015 survey of more than 150,000 students by the Association of American Universities found that incapacitation due to alcohol or drugs was a factor in a “significant percentage” of sexual assaults on campus. In such cases, the physical evidence required for prosecution is almost never present.
In addition, in most of these cases, the students involved know each other. They may live in the same dorm or attend the same classes. The ability of student survivors to remain fully engaged in their education, and safe within their campus community, does not often require the involvement of law enforcement. Those needs can frequently be met with a new dorm assignment or accommodations in class. Under Title IX, colleges are required to provide a “prompt and equitable resolution” of complaints.
Finally, as comments are collected, it is important that those representing the students who’ve had a sexual assault complaint filed against them are legitimate practitioners with experience litigating, arbitrating, and hearing campus sexual assault cases, and not ideologically driven men’s rights activists.