In an effort to overturn controversial policies enacted by the previous administration, President Joe Biden has instructed the US Department of Education (ED) to review all campus sexual assault policies instituted at colleges and universities.
Biden signed an executive order on Monday that allows the Education Department to probe, change, or revoke campus policies related to Title IX, the federal law that “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”
He has also established a Gender Policy Council at the White House to improve gender equality and equity in government policies.
“The policy of this administration is that every individual, every student is entitled to a fair education — free of sexual violence — and that all involved have access to a fair process,” Jennifer Klein, co-chair and executive director of the Gender Policy Council, told reporters during the briefing.
Campus Sexual Assault During DeVos Era
These directives come as no surprise since Biden had already announced his intention to overturn divisive new sexual assault policies instituted by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Under DeVos’ tenure, the ED made significant changes to how colleges handle claims of sexual misconduct. Those accused were given enhanced rights to due process and were allowed to have legal representatives cross-examine alleged victims. The definition of harassment was also narrowed, which affected the liability of universities.
Many gender equity groups raised concerns about the new policies, believing them to be a reversal of Obama-led rules that focused on protecting those on the receiving end of harassment.
However, rather than reinstating former policies from the Obama administration, Biden is expected to create a “safe space” that protects both accusers and the accused.