Letter: Title IX Protections on College Campuses

University of Delaware

Delaware State University

Delaware Technical Community College

Wilmington University

Wesley College

Goldey-Beacom College

Via Electronic Mail

Dear Delaware Colleges and Universities:

We write to you today genuinely troubled by Secretary Betsy DeVos’ decision to rescind the Dear Colleague Letter of 2011 and the subsequent guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education. While we agree that discussions to improve the guidelines to make them clearer and official through regulations or statutory changes are needed, we are highly concerned with how this decision will impact future victims and survivors of sexual violence on our college campuses right now.

In Secretary DeVos’ letter, she stated that due to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, the processes established by these institutions are “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.” This is an alarming statement that reveals how the Secretary does not understand the devastating obstacles victims face if they choose to come forward to report their assault. Many victims find that their accusations are not believed, or they are blamed for the actions of their attacker. Additionally, many have faced severe retaliation from other students and members of their communities when filing a report.

As your campus sexual assault advocates and Title IX coordinators can attest, most women and men do not come forward to report an incident of sexual violence to their institution, and for those that do many are reluctant to follow through the process. Even fewer victims report to the police because of these immense obstacles.

The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter made it abundantly clear that victims deserve basic protections on their campuses after they report a sexual assault, and to undermine those protections that have been in place for more than six years would be a devastating and dangerous step backward. We are asking each institution of higher education across the First State to remain steadfast in your commitments to the protections you have put into place, particularly around the following items: 

  • Maintain the standard of proof of the administrative process for sexual assault at “preponderance of the evidence.”
  • Ensure that immediate protections for victims can be utilized, including removing a respondent from the same living quarters or class of a victim of sexual assault.
  • Continue to allow complainants to appeal not-guilty findings.
  • Do not allow for cross-examination by the parties during hearings.
  • Continue to investigate these cases and make decisions in an expedited manner.

Secretary DeVos has not shown any interest in addressing the underlying crisis not only on our college campuses, but in our K-12 schools: that women and children are being sexually assaulted at alarming rates. We are committed to working together to address these underlying problems. To that end, we believe rigorous consent education and bystander intervention training for students before they take their first steps onto college campuses is vital to ending this epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses. We hope you will join us in doing more to change the culture that allows these sexual assaults to occur in the first place, and again, we ask you to maintain the existing protections for victims of sexual assault on your campuses. If possible, please let us know if you are amenable to this request by Friday, October 20th.

We look forward to a productive dialogue as we all continue to grapple with this complex issue and work to identify solutions that focus on prevention, as well as protecting and supporting all victims of sexual violence.

 

Sincerely,

Valerie Longhurst                                                                    

State Representative 15th District                                          

House Majority Leader

 

Kimberly Williams   

State Representative 19th District

 

John L. Mitchell                                                           

State Representative 13th District