Biden eyes trashing Trump-era rules that advocates feared would silence sexual assault survivors on college campuses

Betsy Devos
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the US Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Biden is directing the Education Department to review policies about sexual assault on college campuses.
  • The controversial policies were instituted under Trump by Betsy DeVos.
  • The president will direct the Education Department to determine if the rules mesh with his policies.
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President Joe Biden on Monday will sign an executive order directing the Department of Education to review policy changes concerning sexual assault on college campuses that were implemented under former President Donald Trump, asking officials to determine whether the policies align with his administration’s goals. 

According to The Washington Post, senior administration officials confirmed Sunday that Biden planned to sign an executive order on Monday that directed a thorough review of the rules implemented during the final year of the Trump administration. 

The move could be the start of the Biden administration’s attempt at replacing the rules with its own, according to the Post.

The changes, engineered by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, were widely denounced by progressives, women’s rights organizations, and other groups that advocate for survivors of sexual assault and harassment. DeVos first announced her intention to make the policy changes in 2018, but the rules weren’t finalized until last year.

The rules no longer permitted a single individual at a university or college to investigate and make a ruling concerning claims of sexual assault or harassment and instead required institutions to use a model where that allowed the accused person to cross-examine the accuser in a live hearing in a more judicial-style proceeding, according to Washington Post.

While proponents of the change said it gave accused persons more due process rights, critics feared it would discourage survivors from coming forward with allegations of assault or harassment. Colleges and universities that were required to make changes based on the rules also opposed the changes.

Democratic attorneys general in more than a dozen states filed a federal lawsuit last year opposing the new rules. The American Civil Liberties Union also last year sued to block the changes from taking effect, predicting the new rules could result in 32% fewer reports of sexual harassment and assault at four-year institutions.

The executive order is also expected to direct a review of other Education Department policies to “guarantee education free from sexual violence,” administration officials told The Washington Post.

Biden’s executive order comes on International Women’s Day, and the president is expected to take a number of other executive actions in honor of the holiday, including his establishment of a White House Gender Policy Council to combat systemic issues of equality for women both domestically and abroad, USA Today reported.

The Gender Policy Council will also focus on transgender issues and supporting women of color, according to the report.

The president is expected to unveil these orders during a speech later Monday.

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