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Trump's Education Secretary Pick Isn't Sure if She'll Keep Obama-Era Campus Rape Rules

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President-Elect Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to serve as the Secretary of Education in his Cabinet late last year. On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee held a confirmation hearing to determine whether or not they felt that DeVos was qualified to hold the position. And her answers on campus sexual assault were not encouraging, according to BuzzFeed News.

DeVos said “it would be premature” for her to commit to maintaining campus rape policies implemented during the Obama administration, which originated with a Dear Colleague letter in 2011 that outlined how colleges should address sexual assault on campus. For example, the letter included advice on what evidence should be collected, what information should be shared with alleged victims and alleged assailants, and how long investigations should take.

Basically, DeVos's answers were as vague as possible when faced with any question about sexual assault policy. When Sen. Bob Casey asked DeVos about these policies and whether or not she would continue them, DeVos said, “I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that and, if confirmed, I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions, and understand the views of the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them, and I would look forward to finding some resolutions.”

DeVos isn’t a politician, but that sure sounds like a politician’s answer.

When asked about the evidence standard currently used at universities, which says that students should be found guilty if there's more than a 50 percent chance they committed the assault, she simply said: “If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and the current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim, the rights of the victims as well as those who are accused as well.”

And when Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democratic member of the committee (and the same woman who took Trump's health secretary pick to task over birth control), asked DeVos if she would continue to support the Office of Civil Rights, which investigates schools' mishandling of sexual assualt, DeVos said only this: “Senator, if confirmed, I commit that I will be looking very closely at how this has been regulated and handled with great sensitivity to those who are victims and also considering perpetrators as well."

At least she had one straightforward answer. Sen. Murray asked DeVos if the behavior Trump describes in the infamous Access Hollywood tape—grabbing and kissing women without their consent—would be considered sexual assault in a school setting. DeVos said yes.

Sen. Casey immediately expressed his feelings toward DeVos’s responses on Twitter, telling his followers, “It’s not premature to commit to maintaining protections against campus sexual assault.”

While we're still far from where we'd like to be, a lot of progress has been made toward improving the way universities respond to sexual assault. Let's hope all that isn't immediately destroyed because Trump wanted another billionaire for his Cabinet.


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