Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to rewrite the Obama administration's rules for investigating allegations of sexual violence on campus.
DeVos said Thursday in a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, "The era of 'rule by letter' is over," as she announced plans to review and replace the way colleges and university handle investigations. The Obama administration guidance was originally delivered in a letter to schools. DeVos said the Obama-era policy failed many students and did a "disservice to everyone involved." The letter, sent in the spring of 2011, details what schools must do to investigate allegations of sexual violence.
DeVos made clear that "acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable." But she said, "Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students."
She said the department will seek public comment and university expertise to develop rules to replace the current policy.
About two dozen protesters gathered outside the auditorium where DeVos spoke about enforcement of the rules governing how colleges investigate sexual assault. The protesters include women who said they were assaulted on campus and victims' advocates.
In contemplating policy changes, DeVos held meetings with students who said they were victims of assault, those who said they were wrongly accused, and representatives of colleges and universities.
Some advocacy groups said the Obama-era policies are flawed but worth saving. They argued the policies have protected many students and forced colleges to confront problems that were long kept quiet. However, opponents say the rules have swung the pendulum too far and pressured colleges to take hasty and heavy action against students accused of misconduct.
Since President Donald Trump took office, critics including men's rights groups and lawyers representing students accused of misconduct have called for an overhaul of the system.