Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday proposed a major overhaul to the way colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct complaints, the AP reports, adding protections for students accused of assault and harassment and narrowing which cases schools would be required to investigate. Her plan would scale back Obama administration rules while adding mandates that could reshape the campus disciplinary systems that schools have developed over the past decade. Under the new plan, colleges would have to investigate complaints only if the alleged incident occurred on campus or in other areas overseen by the school, and only if it was reported to certain officials. By contrast, current rules require colleges to investigate all student complaints, regardless of their location or how they came to the school's attention.
It adds several provisions supported by groups that represent students accused of sexual misconduct. Chief among them, it says accused students must be able to cross-examine their accusers, although it would be done through a representative to avoid personal confrontations. The Education Department says the proposal ensures fairness for students on both sides of accusations, while offering schools greater flexibility to help victims even if they don't file a formal complaint or request an investigation. Advocacy groups for victims say the Obama rules forced schools to stop sweeping the issue under the rug, while those supporting accused students said it tipped the scales in favor of accusers. Some colleges complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome. (Last year, DeVos rescinded Obama-era student loan memos.)