Feb 14, 2019

Just as colleges and universities are shaping the future of how sexual-misconduct and -assault allegations are handled on campuses, one professor fears historical protections for victims are being chipped away at, as well.

“Title IX is shrinking rather than growing,” University of Illinois law Professor Lesley Wexler said of the protections against sex discrimination during a “#MeToo and Academia” panel discussion Wednesday on campus.

That’s how she views U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recently announced plan to rework the definition of sexual harassment and narrow the types of cases colleges and universities are required to investigate under Title IX.

DeVos has said changes are needed in order to balance the rights of assault victims with those who are accused.

Most worrisome for Wexler is that DeVos’ plan would define sexual harassment as “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” acts.

“That’s a higher standard” than exists now, Wexler said. “It’s a higher standard than most situations where you can enact supporting measures and sanctions. I can’t stress enough what an incredibly high threshold this is.”