How Betsy DeVos' proposed changes to Title IX affect Lee University
The U.S. Education Department is drawing up new resolutions addressing sexual assault and misconduct allegations on college campuses.
On Aug. 29, the New York Times reported that Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had proposed changes to how universities and institutions are legally required to address Title IX issues on their campuses. The proposed changes to Obama-era policies include bolstered rights of the accused and how sexual harassment will be defined on college campuses.
DeVos said during her confirmation in 2017 that she had a goal of making significant changes to Title IX.
Title IX is one of the civil rights laws included in the Education Amendments of 1972, with the stated purpose of ensuring, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Since the last presidential election cycle, Title IX has become a hot topic in the ensuing political whirlwind and has gained prevalence in response to the #MeToo movement and the national conversation surrounding sexual harassment and assault.
The proposed changes include policies that, as the New York Times reported, “potentially would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, reduce liability for institutions of higher education and encourage schools to provide more support for victims.”
The modifications also include a call to redefine sexual assault and harassment as well as how universities are legally required to handle such cases.
Lee, as a school which receives federal aid, will be affected by the possible changes to Title IX laws.
Director of Student Development Rosie Adams said that regardless of any policy changes that come with Title IX, Lee is dedicated to providing a safe campus for all students, faculty and staff.
“I believe we will remain committed to being up-to-date with our trainings and policies regarding these matters,” Adams said.
Presently, several departments of Lee’s administration, including Student Development, Campus Security and Human Resources, are implementing and working with Title IX provisions.
As it stands, Title IX provides students with the means to report sexual assault and harassment so as to prevent future violence, and although the guidelines of how to report sexual assault on campus are regularly discussed at dorm meetings, the process of reporting an incident through Title IX may not be known by everyone.
Resident Director of Bowdle & O’Bannon Halls Zachary Skinner said he approves of the current system of reports utilized by Lee in reporting sexual assault.
“Reports can be filed using Lee’s website; we have a tab [under ‘Student Development’] specifically for sexual assault and Title IX,” Skinner said. "You go through and fill steps out on that report, including the information you have in reference to those who were the victim of the assault and those that might have been the perpetrator or perpetrators that instance.”
Skinner emphasized the importance of these reports, stating that reported incidents are addressed using the utmost care and making sure that the student’s information is being kept private.
The approval of Lee’s current protocols extends beyond the administration and team of Resident Directors.
Resident Assistant for Simmons Hall Tumelo Lisulo expressed her appreciation towards Lee's current Title IX protocols.
"I do feel safe with the things Lee has in place against sexual assault," Lisulo said. "I feel like they let you know you are loved and that you can trust them."
As the policy currently stands, according to Adams, Title IX is a high priority with a daily commitment to student safety and well-being by the university's staff.
“I think this is something we take very seriously as a campus,” Adams said. “I have been a Title IX investigator since this past January and have seen firsthand how Lee handles each of these cases with dignity and care.”
If you or someone you know would like to report a Title IX offense, visit Lee's Title IX page or contact Amy Ballard by email at email@example.com or at her office at 104 Lower Simmons. The report form is also available on Portico under Title IX in the University Resources tab.