The Associated Students at the University of New Mexico Senate voted unanimously last month to denounce the new Title IX recommendations made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Title IX was put into place under the Obama administration and lays out rules for how universities are to handle cases of sexual misconduct that are brought by a student.
The vote at UNM came at the end of November, about two weeks after the changes were announced. However, according to The Daily Lobo, the student group didn’t actually review the changes prior to the vote.
In fact, the Title IX changes were condemned by the student group before they were even read by most members of student group, according to the Daily Lobo.
ASUNM President Becka Myers told the Daily Lobo in an emailed statement that she stands behind the student group’s decision.
But when asked by reporters after the vote if the students involved had read the changes, the “overwhelming majority” made answers that suggested they had read very little about what the recommendations concerned, according to the Lobo.
Had the students read the plan put together by DeVos, they would have found that while it’s been branded as controversial, the rules were set in place to protect those innocent until proven guilty.
The changes to the rule creates three categories for harassment, including “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;” “quid pro quo harassment,” like a school employee “conditioning an educational benefit” on a person’s sexual conduct; and sexual assault.
Under Obama-era guidelines, sexual harassment was defined more loosely as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” according to USA Today, which also characterized the plan as “controversial.”
The proposal would legally require a school to respond to complaints that are filed with the Title IX coordinators or other authorized university officials.
The change that has sparked the most opposition is a new rule would allow for someone accused of sexual misconduct to cross-examine the accuser through a representative during the misconduct hearings.
The students of at the University of New Mexico aren’t the only ones who find this issue a priority.
Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts slammed the cross-examination provision in a tweet, shortly after the changes were announced.
“No survivor should be cross-examined by his or her accused rapist,” Kennedy said.
No survivor should be cross-examined by his or her accused rapist. Ever. Full stop. https://t.co/DZgvEuZKi6
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) November 15, 2018
The National Women’s Law Center called the rules “potentially devastating,” because the organization believes it would “undermine many of Title IX’s essential protections.”
“Access to education for millions — especially survivors — is on the line,” TWLC tweeted.
In her statement about the changes, DeVos said the intent of Title IX is to keep the rights of American citizens intact and give them a channel to seek out help, should they need it.
“Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment,” DeVos said, according to Ed.gov’s press release.
“That starts with having clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
DeVos added that “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.”
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