Sexual assault on college campuses

The new regulations that are causing controversy


Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons via Google Images Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons via Google Images

In the era of the Me Too movement, sexual assault has become a topic that is no longer being brushed aside. Because of this new revelation that is taking forefront in the lives of many, places who see assault on a daily basis, such as college campuses, have been under close watch. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Research and Development Series survey, “The sexual assault victimization incidence rate for completed sexual assault, averaged across the nine participating schools, was 176 per 1,000 undergraduate females, and ranged from 85 at School 2 to 325 at School 1” Due to the rising sexual assault numbers that are being reported, there is no wonder why action is being taken.  

Recently, the Trump administration has proposed new regulations on college campuses to give those being accused more rights. The approach is being led by the Education Department, under Secretary Betsy DeVos. According to ABC News,  DeVos made a statement regarding the proposal, “Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” She continues, We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it while ensuring a fair grievance process. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function.” The public has 60 days to comment on the new proposal, and depending on their response the Education Department will decide whether or not to make it final.

The content of the proposal includes a new definition of sexual assault in itself. Under the Obama administration, the definition was any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. The proposal offers a new standpoint on the meaning that requires misconduct to fit a certain mold. The misconduct would have to include, “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity,” in order to be defined as a sexual assault. Another new and controversial addition featured in the proposal is the right of the accused to cross-examine their accuser.

Battlefield alum and sophomore at Hampton University, Kayla Coleman, expressed her opinion on the issue,Sexual assault is any unwelcome gesture and changing the definition to make it so much more specific just makes it harder for women and men who are sexually assaulted to have their voices heard. I also really don’t understand the last part about it having to “deny equal access to a program because” because assault shouldn’t have to be that complicated.” A large piece of Coleman’s concerns focus on how changing the definition of sexual assault could cause victims to be weary about reporting their assault.

Coleman, along with many others speculate that the new element of cross examining would allow unwarranted questions from the accused about sexual history and clothing choice. With all of the public’s stances and opinions being taken into account, the Education Department will soon reach a decision.