DeVos civil rights chief: Parties usually ‘both drunk’ in campus sexual assault cases

The acting head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights questioned the legitimacy of campus sexual assault claims in an interview Wednesday with The New York Times, saying that 90 percent of cases "fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’"

The comments from Candice Jackson, who leads the office tasked with enforcing the federal Title IX law prohibiting sex-based discrimination, come a day before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is set to have a series of meetings with advocates for campus sexual assault survivors and those accused of assault.

Jackson’s comments are a major departure from the stance of the Obama administration, which used its authority under Title IX to issue guidance in 2011 aimed at encouraging students who have been harassed or assaulted to report what happened to them and seek justice. Most notably, the guidance says universities should use a lower standard of evidence in disciplinary hearings than that used in criminal trials.

Jackson’s comments are in line with the views of critics who say the Obama administration policy is unfair to the accused. The remarks are likely to fuel fear among advocates for survivors of sexual assault that the meetings on Thursday are a first step toward rescinding the 2011 guidance. DeVos declined to commit to keeping the Obama guidance in place during her Senate confirmation hearing.

Jackson told the Times that college investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student.” She said that students have been branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up” and that in most investigations there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Jackson said.

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