In 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education would withdraw guidance on how schools should handle sexual assault under Title IX. As Janine Jackson reported for FAIR in November 2017, DeVos explained that the Department of Education was concerned that the previous guidance denied proper due process to those accused. The new guidance gives individual schools more control on how to address sexual misconduct on campuses.
A great deal of criticism has resulted from the announcement of the changes. Women’s advocacy groups argue that these new policies discourage victims from speaking out and create variations in the ways in which universities handle sexual assault, as Elizabeth Adetiba reported for The Nation in September, 2017. DeVos’s policy aims to protect those who are “wrongfully accused,” arguing that the Obama-era regulations favored accusers. Adetiba criticized DeVos’ interpretation of Title IX, but also identified issues with the policy that needed change, specifically regarding fair treatment for parties involved in sexual assault accusations. Originally, coverage of Title IX in the press was primarily limited to its effects on college admissions and athletic programs, with very little mention of sexual assault and conduct. However, coverage changed drastically after DeVos’ announcement.
Betsy Devos’s decision to alter Title IX was covered by nearly every establishment media outlet and many independent sources. As Jackson noted in her FAIR report, establishment media chose to focus on the battle between the Obama and Trump administrations, rather than the immediate effects of the changes to Title IX. The heaviest reporting occurred when the Education Department announced it was changing Title IX. However, there has been a lack of follow-up concerning the recent lawsuit against the Education Department and DeVos, filed by several civil rights groups, in response to the changes, especially on the independent media side. While there has been a lot of back and forth fighting between who Title IX is and is not protecting, the distraction of the battle between administrations takes away from the issues with the policy and how universities are reacting to sexual misconduct.
Janine Jackson, “‘Title IX Requires Schools to Handle All Allegations Promptly and Equitably’: CounterSpin interview with Alyssa Peterson on campus sexual assault,” FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), November 9, 2017, https://fair.org/home/title-ix-requires-schools-to-handle-all-allegations-promptly-and-equitably/.
Elizabeth Adetiba, “What Betsy DeVos Gets Wrong About Sexual Assault on Campus,” The Nation, September 12, 2017, https://www.thenation.com/article/what-betsy-devos-gets-wrong-about-sexual-assault-on-campus/.
Student Researchers: Melissa Garcia, Erin Stacevicz, Bridget Thom, and Summer Tuman (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)