Colleges won't apply new sexual-assault guidelines
In a move that surprised no one, the Trump administration announced Sept. 22 that it was rolling back Obama-era protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the new guidelines are designed to make things fairer for accused perpetrators.
What is, perhaps, surprising is that administrators at all of the major local campuses — Portland State University, University of Portland, Lewis & Clark College and Reed College — said they have no plans to change how they handle allegations of sexual assault at their schools.
Not yet, anyway.
Under the new Trump guidelines, colleges now have the option of making it harder for an alleged victim to successfully accuse a schoolmate of rape in college misconduct cases. That's because colleges are now permitted to change their internal policy to allow only "clear and convincing evidence" to find a student guilty of assault. Under President Obama, colleges and universities were required to use a lower standard of guilt, a "preponderance" of evidence. Using that standard, colleges had to find that it was more likely than not that a student engaged in sexual misconduct.
Representatives from PSU, University of Portland, Lewis & Clark and Reed said they have long used that lower standard of guilt for all cases of student misconduct — everything from plagiarism to vandalism — and that it continues to make sense to apply it to sexual assault.
Unlike in criminal court, colleges aren't deciding whether accused students should go to prison but whether they can continue to go to school with the person they harmed or, in less serious cases, whether their behavior needs to be corrected. "We're looking to educate students," said Jane Atkinson, vice president and provost at Lewis & Clark. "We're not trying to be a court of law."