SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The Trump Administration on Wednesday released controversial new rules for how sexual misconduct allegations will be handled on school and university campuses, presenting a conundrum to Stanford University officials weighing what compliance with the rules will look like.
The rules issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos extend the rights of the accused, but some say they will force many victims into silence.
“These new regulations are the Trump administration saying that the pendulum has swung to far against the rights of the accused in these sexual assault investigations,” said Steven Clark, a former prosecutor, legal analyst and criminal defense lawyer in San Jose. “What these regulations seek to do is say that to have a fair process, you have to have due process.”
The new regulations, which fall under Federal Title IX laws, gives the accused the presumption of innocence and the right to question the accuser in live on campus hearings, through a lawyer or other representatives.
“What these rules try to do is implement a process that’s similar to a court process,” Clark said.
But victim’s right’s advocates say the new rules could make campuses less safe.
“I think that the primary effect of the rules is that they will make the victims of sexual assault and
sexual harassment far less likely to report,” said Stanford Law Professor Michelle Dauber.
Dauber led the effort that recalled Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky after he sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to just six months in jail after being convicted of three felonies for sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in 2016.
Dauber disagrees with subjecting victims to confrontations in open on-campus hearings, which
some consider cruel, saying they forces victims to relive their trauma.
“The victim must submit to questioning live, by the accused student’s representative. And that representative does not have to be an attorney. It could be their friend, their angry parent, their frat brother,” Dauber said.
She also questions the timing of the new rules.
“These regulations are being issued in the middle of a pandemic in May, and they are supposed to be in place by August, even though colleges and universities are mostly closed. That is obscene,” Dauber said.
Stanford University said it is just now beginning to review the new regulations and how to comply.
Stanford Provost Persis Drell said in a statement quote:”However the federal regulations might affect Stanford, our goal remains to provide support for our students and ensure a fair, timely and effective Title IX process.”