Devos’ Title IX Changes Won’t Affect Fordham

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By Mike Fissinger and Joergen Ostensen

(Courtesy of Flickr).

Fordham has no current plan to change its current practices in light of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent alteration to campus sexual misconduct policy guidelines, according to Title IX Coordinator Anastasia Coleman.

DeVos issued new guidelines allowing colleges and universities more freedom in how they handle sexual misconduct cases. In addition, she rescinded a 2011 Obama-era policy, laid out in the Dear Colleague Letter, which reaffirms that sexual assault constitutes discrimination under Title IX.

Coleman said the university does not yet have any plans to change how Title IX functions at the university.
“Fordham University has no immediate plans to amend our sexual misconduct policies in the wake of the US Department of Education’s (DOE) withdrawal of the 2011 Dear Colleagues Letter and the 2014 Q&A guidance,” said Coleman.

The Department of Education intends to announce final policy changes following input from the public and various stakeholders regarding the adjudication of sexual misconduct cases, according to the Department of Education’s Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct.
The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office signaled no timetable for when that process of public comment will be completed.

Coleman did not rule out future changes to university practices.

“The University will re-evaluate our policies and make any changes that may be required,” she said.
Coleman stressed the importance of Fordham staying within the confines of New York State Law. She made it clear that no changes would conflict with pre-existing laws.

Coleman said the university is committed to making students feel safe and provide fair processes following any potential crimes.

“Here at Fordham, it is important that all members of our community feel safe and know that if they are either victims/ survivors or are charged with sexual misconduct, we will care for them…and provide a fair adjudication process.”

Coleman’s statement comes as the Trump Administration has increased the burden of proof required to convict people charged with sexual misconduct. According to The New York Times, the new system requires “clear and convincing evidence,” while the Obama-era policy required only a “preponderance of the evidence” to convict.

The letter that outlined the new requirement for evidence criticized the Obama administration for forcing colleges and universities to handle too much of the process around Title IX complaints on their own.

The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter forced “schools to establish policing and judicial systems while at the same time directing schools to resolve complaints on an expedited basis,” according to the statement issued on September 22.

DeVos said in a statement at George Mason on September 7 that she is making these changes because of conversations she’s had with stakeholders. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved,” she said.
The theme of due process for all, including the accused, is prevalent throughout DeVos’ September 7 statement. “Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” said DeVos.

One in five female students aged 18-24 reported to police being victims of sexual assault, according to a Department of Justice special report issued in 2014.
“I think that now that we have greater understanding of how pervasive the problem is and how it’s gone largely unaddressed, we need to take steps to correct the situation,” said Fordham Law Professor Cheryl Bader in a previous interview with The Ram.