The University of Chicago is not considering making changes to its disciplinary policies for adjudicating sexual assault, a spokesperson said after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday that the Trump administration intends to rescind Obama-era Title IX guidance.
The Department of Education's rulemaking process could take months, but it's already clear that DeVos is poised to make changes that will favor students who are accused of sexual assault. In a speech at George Mason University, DeVos called proceedings under the current guidance "kangaroo courts," and noted that the Obama administration required that universities use a "preponderance of evidence" (more likely than not) standard of proof in adjudicating cases.
The University implemented this standard of proof to comply with guidance in a 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter. In an April interview, Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen suggested that the University would continue to use this standard if the guidance is rescinded, saying, "It’s the standard we’ve been using now for several years. I don’t really see any compelling reason to not use it.”
A statement from spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus on Friday goes farther. Sainvilus said that the University's procedures will remain in place, adding that state law mandates that the University use policies that are similar to what the "Dear Colleague" letter requires.
Here's the University's full statement to The Maroon:
Sexual misconduct and all other forms of discriminatory harassment violate the standards of our community and are unacceptable at the University of Chicago. The University has a strong commitment to supporting members of our community on these issues, and that commitment is independent of legal requirements. As part of the University’s broader efforts on these issues, we will continue to ensure compliance with Title IX and relevant federal regulations. Another important and unchanged consideration is the need to work with state offices to ensure compliance with state-level requirements, specifically the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act of 2015, which requires specific processes and standards that are very similar to the guidance supplied previously by the U.S. Department of Education in its ‘Dear Colleague’ guidance. Additionally, the procedures of the University of Chicago disciplinary system for sexual misconduct matters reflect the mandates of the state law and will remain in place. The University has made significant efforts in recent years to address sexual misconduct on campus, and we continue to evaluate and refine efforts to respond to these issues.
Phoenix Survivors Alliance, an advocacy group on campus for survivors of sexual violence, shared resources in a statement on Facebook after the announcement.
Update (9/11/17): The University has not received interim guidelines from the Department of Education, Sainvilus said Monday. Inside Higher Ed reports that guidance on how Title IX violations will be enforced during the rule-making process could come this week. The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment about its timeline.