After two weeks of uncertainty regarding Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to fix the current “failed system” for handling campus sexual assault, DeVos announced on Friday that American colleges and universities will now be allowed to use a higher standard of evidence for finding accused perpetrators guilty of sexual misconduct.
However, schools can continue to use the higher standard of evidence, which University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler said in a statement to the News that Yale will continue to do.
“Yale has no plans to deviate from the evidentiary standards the university now applies to sexual misconduct cases,” her statement said. “We will also continue to follow Connecticut law, which details how colleges and universities must respond to sexual misconduct and which mandates the preponderance of evidence standard for cases of sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence.”
The current standard of evidence — a “preponderance of evidence” standard, which means that an accused individual is found guilty if more than 50 percent of the evidence supports the plaintiff — has been in place since 2011, the year the Obama administration issued a “Dear Colleague Letter.” The letter, the last major federal adjustment to sexual assault policy on college campuses, contained recommendations for all American colleges on how to handle reports of sexual misconduct.
Under DeVos’ new initiative, college administrations will be allowed to use a “clear and convincing” standard of proof, which requires that evidence provides a highly probable case that the accused is guilty.
Spangler added that as the Department of Education continues to reevaluate and adjust Obama-era guidelines, the University remains committed to policies that effectively address sexual misconduct and processes that are fair to all.
DeVos’ current adjustment to college sexual assault standards will remain in place while her office collects public input on how to best institute a permanent change.
Betsy DeVos is the 11th United States Secretary of Education.