How colleges handle sexual assault cases could be changing soon

Last week Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said her department is reevaluating how sexual assault accusations are investigated on college campuses.

She didn't provide many details, but her office is receptive to feedback from the public and universities to develop new rules. She said the Obama-era rules, "failed too many students," including the accused.

In 2011 the Office for Civil Rights issued a letter that asked colleges to use a standard called a "preponderance of evidence" when investigating accusations of sexual assault. This means if it seems likely that it happened, the school should go ahead and enforce discipline.

Caroline Palmer of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault joined the program to talk about these changes to the policy. Palmer is concerned that the progress made under the Obama administration will be lost.

"The fact is there is more attention to this issue," she said.

Andrew Miltenberg, a New York lawyer who represented a Columbia University graduate accused of rape, said that sexual assault is a problem on campuses, but so is the process used to investigate them.

He said that preponderance of evidence is fine, but the investigation and the appeals process are not "handled the same way."

"It lacks a sense of what is supposed to be happening either in court, or what we understand to be a fair and equitable process," said Miltenberg.

To hear more from our guests on sexual assault policies use the audio player above.

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