UW system, lawmakers react to DeVos’ overhaul to campus sexual misconduct rules

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MADISON (WKOW/AP) — The UW system and UW-Madison have responded to a proposal by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overhaul the way colleges handle complaints of sexual misconduct.

The Education Department released a plan Friday that would require schools to investigate sexual assault and harassment only if the alleged misconduct was reported to certain campus officials and only if it occurred on campus or other areas overseen by the school.

The plan would narrow the definition of sexual harassment and allow students accused of misconduct to cross-examine accusers in campus hearings.

State Representative Chris Taylor (D) said she’s concerned the rules would make it difficult for victims to come forward.

I don’t think we need to make it harder for victims to come forward, yes, we need a fair process absolutely, but we certainly don’t want to make it more difficult,” said Taylor.

DeVos’s plan has also been met with criticism from the #METOO movement. She does have support from U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander who chairs Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).  The Senator said it’s needed to bring clarity to federal rules for colleges and to protect the safety and rights of students.

“The Department’s approach seems to balance fairness and support for survivors,” the Senator said in a statement.

DeVos’ proposal would replace Obama-era guidelines she scrapped last year, saying they were unfair to students accused of sexual misconduct.

The new guidelines aim to give greater protections to accused students while also giving schools flexibility to offer support to victims who don’t file a formal complaint.

Some worry this will make it more difficult for victims to come forward.

November 16, 2018
Chancellor Rebecca M. Blank released the following statement:

Sexual violence and sexual harassment remain all too prevalent on university campuses and can have devastating personal and educational consequences for those who are victimized.

UW–Madison has developed policies and practices that are timely, fair and ensure both parties have equal participation rights. We remain committed to creating a campus environment free from violence and harassment through effective prevention, survivor support and accountability efforts.

We will review today’s announcement and, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin System, determine how it may affect our campus policies and practices, while continuing to communicate about these issues with our campus community. We will also work with organizations such as the Association of American Universities (AAU), National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), and the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) in support of federal policies that uphold the principles stated above.

For more information on resources for student survivors, please visit www.uhs.wisc.edu/assault.

The UW System also released a statement:

University of Wisconsin System spokesperson Heather LaRoi issued this statement regarding today’s
Title IX announcement:
“The University of Wisconsin System and our institutions are committed to policies and practices that prevent sexual violence and harassment. We will be reviewing today’s announcement with our existing Title IX task force to take into full account the implications of the proposed rules.”

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