Women's Issues

DeVos Unveils Controversial New Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies

The Education Department released the new proposal on Friday.

DeVos Unveils Controversial New Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies
Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a controversial new plan Friday that would change how colleges investigate claims of campus sexual misconduct.

A big change from the Obama-era campus sexual assault policies DeVos rescinded last year — schools would only have to investigate claims of misconduct that happened on school-operated property and had been reported to particular school officials.

The definition of sexual harassment also gets really specific compared to the language under Obama, which simply called it "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature." DeVos' definition changes that to, "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity."

Under the new plan, accused students would be entitled to lawyers and cross-examination. Additionally, the government wouldn't punish institutions that offer "supportive measures" to victims who don't want to file a written complaint, like counseling or changes in housing.

Supporters of the move say it will strengthen due process for the accused. But critics argue it could further deter students from reporting misconduct.

The proposal won't go into effect until it goes through a public comment period, which could take some time.