LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Department of Education is proposing changes to federal civil rights laws that affect college campuses. The changes to Title IX and sexual misconduct policies are receiving mixed reviews.
The policy change would undo many policies regarding sexual misconduct put in place by the Obama administration in 2011.
Some argue the changes give more power to the accused. Others claim current policy does not provide due process.
Under the current policy, the definition of sexual misconduct (which includes both sexual harassment and sexual assault) is broad and includes any unwelcome conduct of sexual nature. Proposed changes would tighten up that definition.
At Indiana University Southeast, there are about 5,200 students. A minority of students, about 400, live on campus.
Under current Title IX policies, the school is responsible for investigating sexual misconduct claims reported off-campus. The DOE’s changes would limit the school’s responsibility to investigate incidents reported both on and off-campus.
New policies also strengthen the standard of evidence alleged victims must present to make their case, placing more of a burden on the complainant to prove their allegations.
“The complaining witness' words, accusations, are taken as true and the repercussions to a person who is falsely accused may last the rest of their life,” defense attorney William Butler said.
Butler has defended clients accused of sexual misconduct on college campuses. He believes the proposed changes are necessary because the policies favor the person filling a complaint.
Seuth Chaleunphonh, IU Southeast Dean of Student Life, said a recently awarded $300,000 grant will cover education on a broad range of sexual misconduct topics. The grant will also cover additional resources for alleged victims of sexual assault.
The goal is to address sexual violence on campus.
“We believe broadening the conversation will help people report more, and help people stand up for other people,” Chaleunphonh said. “I think our campus and IU as a whole, we want to have that culture of care."
Chaleunphonh said the looming Title IX changes won’t affect the grant money.
Dr. Ray Wallace, Chancellor at IU Southeast, said the campus will always be in line with Title IX and it does not plan to loosen up on safety.
“We are monitoring the changes,” Wallace said. ”We will always be in compliance with Title IX, that’s a federal law. We are not going to go on the other side of the federal law.”
The changes are just proposed and not final.