Betsy DeVos wants to rethink how colleges probe sexual assault. She may have a point.

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Bridge has chronicled some of the difficulties that arise as colleges attempt to aggressively police accusations of sexual assault involving students.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled plans last week to reconsider how colleges and universities investigate campus sexual assault.  

While surveys can be contradictory, some reveal that as many as one-in-four women report having some type of unwanted sexual contact in college, with most incidents going unreported to police. In 2011, the Obama administration sent a letter to universities that addressed the legal obligation of colleges to investigate sexual violence. In response, universities ramped up investigations.

That pleased advocates for sexual-assault victims. But the more aggressive approach  taken by universities also brought criticism, and not just from conservatives, that some students accused of assault were not afforded basic protections to defend themselves.  

DeVos’ announcement starts the process to rescind that Obama-era policy. DeVos said that while the policy was well-intentioned, the effect was a lack of due process for those accused.

Bridge Magazine has twice chronicled difficult, highly charged cases at Michigan’s largest universities, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Together, the articles  demonstrate how complicated, inconsistent and maddening campus sex assault investigations can be.

At U-M, the assault investigation of a star football player dragged on for years, and just happened to conclude as his football eligibility was ending. Meanwhile, another male U-M student was suspended from the school for an alleged assault in hearings (one held via Skype) in which he was never allowed to question witnesses or know their names.

Read about those cases here: “Two U-M sexual assault cases, little satisfaction”

In a 2014 incident involving two MSU students, a male student was sanctioned for “one-time, non-consensual touching” after he touched his lover’s breast not long after the pair had consensual sex ‒ an incident his accuser did not report until 16 months later.

You can read that story here: “An unwanted touch. Two lives in free fall. A dispatch from the drive to stop sexual assault on campus.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 09/12/2017 - 8:59am

ByAgree with column. That said this a live grenade and I suspect agreeing with Madam Secretary
pulled the pin.

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 9:38am

The review is long overdue and the backlash received is more about Trump and DeVos as people, rather than of the policy failings, which are many.

William C. Plumpe
Tue, 09/12/2017 - 1:25pm

One of the serious problems often ignored in the discussion about sexual assault on campus is the parallel epidemic of alcohol abuse by college students. Some parents may see it as a rite of passage or "they're just kids" but alcohol abuse is an ongoing problem on campus that contributes to sexual assault. I have heard stories of the game that young college women play. They go to a party where they know there will be free booze and young men interested in drunken sex. The women get so drunk they pass out on a bed and are open to any sexual advances. They wake up in the morning and count the number of rubbers in the wastebasket. Whoever has the most wins. I hope this is just an urban legend but there is no doubt alcohol abuse on campus is a serious problem that contributes to unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault . If colleges and Universities want to stop sexual assault they should try to cut down on rampant alcohol abuse.

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:56am

If you "hope this is an urban legend" why repeat it? Why not fact check this. Also, it seems you are putting the burden solely on the young woman, does the young man bear no responsibility?

Nancy Flanagan
Tue, 09/12/2017 - 3:09pm

As I read the article, I thought--I wonder how many comments it will take for someone to blame girls for being careless, drunken sluts. Now I know: three.

This is NOT an anti-Trump, anti-DeVos issue. It's a long-standing, constantly morphing issue, centered around the dignity and safety of women in American society and on our campuses, where (one would hope) our best and brightest young people are in residence. This column is an insult to all the good work done, over decades, on college campuses, to build understanding of just who is responsible for our prevalent--very American-- rape culture.
Nobody is denying that the issue is multi-layered and complex, and well beyond the scope of a reader's comment. But delineating all the factors involved in campus rape is supposed to be "Bridge Magazine's" job--not cherry-picking a case or two that support doubt about the intentions of the accuser.

Mr. French says "some students accused of assault were not afforded basic protections to defend themselves." I hope he would think about all the young women who were actually physically assaulted and had no protection to defend themselves, who ought to be at the center of any discussion on campus rapes and sexual crimes.

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 3:48pm

Always enjoy getting morality lessons from a woman whose brother was a murderous mercenary who endangered our troops and whose husband runs a huge scam to bilk the ignorant out of their money with false promises.

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 8:03am

Always interesting to see how some people can grab the smallest ancillary reference to a DeVos, Koch, or Bush in article and turn it into a crazy off topic rant. Great transition onto Prozac article.

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 11:26am

DeVos is the focus of the article. She is the one pushing the change. I guess you didn't grasp that part of the article. She has no credibility - just millions of dollars (ill gotten at that). I guess you think she is great and has the best of intentions.

Just read this to learn what she has done for our state - destroying our schools for profit:

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:54am

Serious question. Are we better off letting the police be the ones in charge of this. I understand the University is a place to study, live, etc and bears a responsibility for the care of students. Even so, are we better off with a training session upon enrollment, repeated every term/year on sexual assault and letting the police, not campus police but say the Michigan State Police handle any and all cases like this?

Sexual assault, rape and related crimes are heinous offenses. Should the police handle and and all investigation and let the University handle counseling, discipline related to enrollment, classes, and student activities.

One more point, no is no and if you proceed past no it is at a minimum assault and possibly will be rape. If a student is intoxicated lets assume they cannot give informed consent.

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:09pm

There have been cases of girls who have consensual sex then report it as non-consensual. Happened to a young man I know. He was lucky because he was not her first victim. Not a Devos fan, but she does have a point on this one.