At her confirmation hearing yesterday afternoon, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos signaled that the new administration is prepared to reconsider the Obama administration’s Title IX mandates that have encouraged campuses to create growing sex bureaucracies and tilt their disciplinary processes against students accused of sexual assault. The Guardian reports:
Betsy DeVos, nominated by Donald Trump to serve as the next education secretary, refused on Tuesday to state whether she would uphold the Obama administration’s guidance on how to handle campus sexual assault.
DeVos – a Republican megadonor, philanthropist and eager patron of charter schools – cast taking a position on the issue as “premature” during her confirmation hearing before the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions.
“If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim … as well as those who are accused.”
There have traditionally been differences in the way Republican and Democratic administrations handle Title IX regulation. While the Bush administration took a relatively laissez-faire approach and even explicitly reminded colleges that sexual harassment guidelines did not require colleges to infringe on civil liberties, the Obama administration’s Office for Civil Rights in Education used an aggressive interpretation of the law to unilaterally engineer wide-ranging changes at colleges across the country. It seems likely that when the ideological gender warriors in the current Department of Education bureaucracy depart and Trump appointees take their place, at least some of the Obama-era regulatory guidance—which was never enshrined in legislation—will be summarily reversed.
But that doesn’t mean that the situation on campuses will necessarily grow any more level-headed. As we’ve noted before, Trump’s election, which was met with shock and horror in American academia, may be taken as evidence of the necessity of aggressive identity politics initiatives, rather than a repudiation of them. So it’s entirely possible that campuses will maintain or even expand the same ideological policies they have implemented in recent years.
Unless, that is, the new administration actually goes to war with campus bureaucrats by declaring that Title IX forbids left-wing campus policies that undermine due process. In that case, things could get interesting. But the best approach, by far, would be to merely undo the Obama administration’s gratuitous dictates and work with the legislature to pass legislation clarifying the requirements of Title IX once and for all. This would reduce the amount of uncertainty and administrative whiplash in the higher education system the next time the Democrats come to power.