New Title IX restrictions to have little impact on SRU students

Published by , Author: Adam Zook - Assistant News Editor, Date: September 28, 2017
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Last Friday, United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos scrapped a number of Obama-era regulations on how campuses are to handle investigations into sexual assault.

Secretary DeVos cited the reason for the change as the Obama rules being unfairly skewed towards those accused of sexual assault. The temporary measures now allow colleges the freedom to decide what standards of evidence that they would like to use when investigating complaints of sexual assault.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the voices and concerns of victims and survivors of sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence are not being elevated as a priority for this new administration,” SRU’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance President Erin Dempsey said. “These types of actions can massively impact an individual’s education and Title IX is one way in which justice for victims can be achieved. I think that it’s important at this time to remember how difficult it can be to decide to report sexual assault, rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment and it should not be made even more difficult to do so.”

This is the second major change that has been made to Title IX standards this year, the first of which was a re-classification of how Title IX protects transgender students on college campuses. However, SRU’s Title IX Coordinator and assistant vice president of diversity and equal opportunity Holly McCoy is seeking to clear up many misconceptions about newly introduced policies and how they might affect Slippery Rock students.

“There is some concern that these rescindments will discourage people from coming forward, but there needs to be more education on the subject; we’re still going to be doing what we’ve always been doing.”

McCoy and other campus organizations process about 77 incidents a year ranging from claims of sexual assault to students just wanting to talk about a situation that made them uncomfortable. This number has steadily risen since she assumed her position in 2011. McCoy sees this as a positive reflection of people understanding the resources they have here at Slippery Rock.

“There have been a lot of high-profile incidents in recent years that have sparked awareness of sexual assault,” McCoy said. “People are upset with victims of sexual assault being treated unfairly in the court of law. When sympathy grows for these people, so does awareness of the actions that can be taken and resources that are available.”

Previously, universities were encouraged to complete investigations into claims of sexual assault in under 60 days and proven by a preponderance of evidence. The new adjustments to the regulations cause worry for some because these previous standards can now be ignored because of the rescindments under DeVos. McCoy still remains adamant that Slippery Rock will be largely unaffected by these changes.

“We have always encouraged students to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable using,” McCoy said. “We have always processed claims of sexual assault or harassment in a timely manner and will continue to use the same criteria for investigating these cases. We’re not going to be turning on a dime so to speak; the students at SRU should continue to feel safe and know that their problems and concerns are still our top priority.”

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