Editorial: New sexual harassment policies on college campuses should not be tolerated

FILE - in this June 5, 2018, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Preliminary data obtained by The Associated Press show the Trump administration is granting only partial loan forgiveness to the vast majority of students it approves for help because of fraud by for-profit colleges. The data demonstrate the impact of DeVos’ new policy of tiered relief, in which students swindled by for-profit schools are compensated based on their earnings after the program. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Changes to Title IX proposed by the Department of Education may not have the intention of giving advantages to those accused of sexual assault, but many of these new proposed policies would inevitably have such consequences. In an attempt to make the process of accusing and convicting sexual assaulters more fair for both sides, the department has proposed a so-called “both sides” approach to college campus’ sexual assault due process. This approach will give both the survivor and the attacker an “equal” chance in the courtroom.

This policy change would inevitably hinder a survivor’s ability to win in a legal suit against an attacker, as they would have to give higher standards of evidence in legal conflicts. Proving sexual assault or rape is nearly impossible with this new standard, as it would require tangible proof of an unwanted attack. Often, these attacks are not public,  and providing legitimate proof is difficult when so many instances are not reported until well after the initial assault. So does that mean we are not safe in reporting these types of attacks anymore?

With the replacement of this standard, victims of rape and sexual harassment will be less inclined to come forward because their chances of winning legal disputes are much slimmer. On college campuses, where such incidents are three times more common, student victims, whether male or female, need to feel supported by the legal system. If people don’t feel that they will be taken seriously by their justice systems, they will not be incentivized to come forward.

This new policy does not provide a feeling of safety and support, which a university is required to provide its students. The “both sides” approach inevitably gives an advantage to attackers by hindering the court’s ability to recognize the legitimacy of accusations. This in turn empowers attackers as it sends the message that accusations will hardly be criminalized in a court of law. It is the duty of all universities to make their pupils feel safe and protected during their time as students. If this policy change hinders a university’s ability to accomplish this basic act, then it should not be a policy supported by the federal government.