Critics say looser sexual misconduct rules won't save colleges money
- Recent moves that loosen regulations regarding how colleges report sexual misconduct won't save them money in the way the Education Department promises, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, because institutions won't be able to trim employees or training and they still will face lawsuits.
- Lawyer Scott Schneider of Austin, Texas, former associate general counsel at Tulane University, told the Chronicle that the cost savings cited by the Education Department is "dubious."
- However, Education Department officials say they believe the changes will reduce the number of investigations, according to a New York Times analysis, because the proposed rules restrict the definition of sexual harassment, make it easier for colleges to prove they addressed an issue, require complaints be made more formally and do not require colleges to investigate off-campus incidents.
Many college and university administrators complained that Obama administration guidance about sexual assault and harassment was too strict, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos withdrew the guidance last year and put in place an interim policy. In 2016 and 2017, 22 public universities and systems paid more than $10.5 million across 59 settlements involving sexual harassment claims made by students.
The debate comes in the wake of a series of issues related to institutions' mishandling sexual misconduct complaints, the most visible being Michigan State's handling of hundreds of young women who came forward to accuse the former Olympic and university physician Larry Nasser of sexually assaulting them. He was found guilty and earlier this year sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. That forced the resignation of Michigan State's president, as did a similar scandal at the University of Southern California, where the president recently resigned after he was accused of mishandling sexual misconduct complaints about a campus gynecologist.
Along with changes in how colleges must act on reports of sexual misconduct, the new rules would also increase use of mediation in cases and allow the victim and the accused to question each other. A federal appeals court recently ruled in favor of a college student who sought the right to question his accuser.
- Chronicle of Higher Education Will the forthcoming sexual misconduct rules actual save colleges money?