Illustration by Raya Deussen

Title IX changes are a step back for victims

By Nicholas Nerli

Since the October allegations of sexual assault against film production giant Harvey Weinstein, numerous prominent men have been accused of or admitted to actions of sexual misconduct. While the overarching discussion of this behavior has been filled with disgust, a portion of society, including the White House, has turned sexual assault into a partisan blame game. In the wake of the so-called “Weinstein Effect,” it appears the swamp is finally being drained, though not in the manner coined by President Trump. Trump, who himself has been labeled a sexual abuser and has contested numerous assault allegations, has begun the pathetic habit of defending the accused. Further, his administration has taken the disappointing step of enacting major policy changes that protect those accused of sexual violence on college campuses. Clearly, Trump considers the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations as trivial and superficial, once again abandoning his elected post as a moral leader and subjecting society to his own perverse worldview.

The White House’s hateful rhetoric has now turned to policy change, with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announcing changes to Title IX. Title IX, which began as an initiative to prevent gender discrimination, has become an important law in addressing sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. According to the Washington Post, the alterations so far enacted have drastically reduced federal funding for Title IX, given institutions less oversight when handling assault cases and made it more difficult for the accused to face charges. The administration’s attempt to return power to the state and local level has created another nationwide debate on the role of colleges when investigating cases of sexual assault. Curiously, the same politicians siding with Trump often incorporate the rights of privacy as focal points of their own political platforms, even as the administration’s new guidelines protect accused perpetrators and increase the chance that assaulters are cleared of  their charges.

The Washington Post further notes that under new law, college campuses no longer have to act upon sexual violence accusations within a fixed time frame, instead having the option to investigate internally and without federal guidance. This irresponsible shift in policy will allow individual institutions to handle sexual violence claims with independent control, meaning there will not be a standard that all colleges must follow. Without a federal standard, some colleges may restrict investigative efforts, limit responsiveness, ease the process of trial and ultimately take a massive step backwards in attempts to stop the sexual violence crisis on college campuses. Historically, colleges throughout the nation have adopted varying policies to address sexual violence, some of which are biased against victims. Trump’s changes to Title IX will allow policies of the past to be practiced without federal supervision. In short, the Trump administration has sided with those accused of sexual violence and made it easier for them to avoid criminal prosecution.

Nationwide, colleges are having to re-evaluate their stance on the White House’s recent policy changes as the world witnesses a historic outing of possible sexual predators. On Palatine Hill, policymakers appear not to support Trump’s changes in Title IX since Lewis & Clark has largely continued to follow the mandates established by the Obama administration. This said, it is necessary to catch any changes enacted on our campus and students should review any future campus policy transitions that may occur. Our community must be vigilant in promoting a just and compassionate environment for those that experience sexual violence. Regardless of politics, society’s backward mindset cannot and should not be permitted, and it is the duty of those that care to eliminate the “forgive and forget” mentality that has previously been acceptable.

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