Staff Editorial: The Devos Title IX guidelines need to go

This article contains mentions of sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

Last summer, Education Secretary Betsy Devos issued new Title IX regulations that greatly altered the way students and administrators nationwide interact with situations regarding sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence.

As Student Life reported this week, these changes are already having an extensive impact on campus. They have limited students’ and University administrators’ ability to take action when necessary and added hurdles for survivors seeking justice, making an already deeply flawed Title IX process even more challenging. The Student Life Editorial Board finds the policy changes reprehensible and urges everyone on campus to campaign for change.

These regulations were put in place in order to “ensure fairness and due process for those accused of sexual violence.” However, a majority of sexual assaults are never reported, and a minority of sexual assault reports are false, between 2% and 10%. This would mean that anywhere between 90% and 98% of sexual assault reports are legitimate claims of survivors. Since the data strongly supports the claims of survivors, we ask: why are further regulations being issued to support perpetrators? Under the regulations put in place, the University is additionally limited in its ability to assist survivors, thus granting perpetrators more leniency.

Regarding its ability to assist survivors, the University is limited as it must follow regulations in accordance with federal guidelines. Consequently, the responsibility largely falls on student groups and individuals, although they too are limited in what they are allowed to do; student groups are prohibited from taking action against individuals who have been accused of sexual misconduct while a University investigation is underway. Knowing this, University administrators suggested that student groups take it upon themselves to introduce constitutional rules against sexual misconduct and dishonesty regarding Title IX investigations in order to allow student groups some form of control over cases of sexual misconduct that may occur within their organization. This effectively puts the onus on student groups and survivors to try and navigate an already difficult process, and it limits the power that these student groups have to act.

Furthermore, as Student Life reported earlier this week, it is possible that even if President Biden repeals these regulations, between repealing the current regulations and writing the new ones, it could take up to two years before this process would be complete. That is two years that student groups, the University and survivors are limited in their ability to find justice. Two years that perpetrators will be granted more freedom. That is two years too many for so many to endure. While these regulations remain, we need to match our fight to repeal the guidelines with an effort to support those in our lives who have experienced sexual assault or interpersonal violence.

The Student Life Editorial Board is appalled by the DeVos Title IX regulations, and we are disheartened to see such a tremendous reversal of some of the progress that has been made to protect survivors. However, we recognize that this issue extends beyond the University, and that it affects students and survivors across the nation. This is not the fight of the individual, or the fight of Wash. U. alone. This is an issue that affects all of us—all students, all faculty and staff—all across the nation.

The fight is ongoing, and we must continue to stand with and advocate for ourselves and our peers. Particularly in light of this week’s University Survivors Movement protest on campus, as students, we must continue to make it known that we do not find these policies reflective of the efforts of many to protect survivors. We must continue to support groups like Title Mine and @metoo_washu who consistently fight and advocate for survivors.

To the University, we ask that you do what you can when you can. We urge that you remember your commitment to the Wash. U. community to address and prevent sexual assault on campus. Continue to speak up against these wrongs, and continue to show us that you’re committed to preventing sexual misconduct at our institution.

Interpersonal violence is real, and it affects us all. Too many of our peers have had to share their stories, and we thank them for doing so. As we said in November, our work isn’t over. We must acknowledge the problems that persist at our institution, and we need to continue to make it clear that we do not stand for them. We must fight together, for each other.

Our Voice: Editorial Board

Staff editorials reflect the consensus of our editorial board. The editorial board operates independently of our newsroom and includes members of the senior staff and forum section editors.

Associate Editor:Matthew Friedman
Managing Editor: Kya Vaughn
Senior Forum Editor: Kya Vaughn
Senior Scene Editor: Benjamin Simon
Senior Cadenza Editor: Isabella Neubauer
Copy Chiefs: JJ Coley, Isabella Neubauer
Multimedia Editors: Jaden Satenstein, Christine Watridge, HN Hoffmann
Director of Engagement: Kathleen White

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.