Advocates Worry About New Era Of Secrecy On Campus Rape

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Advocates for campus sexual assault victims fear the Education Department under Betsy Devos will try to diminish attention on campus rape by rolling back the Obama-era practice of publicizing results of university investigations into Title IX violations.

Concerns were raised following the announcement Monday by the University of Alaska system that it had signed an agreement with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to end a three-year review into how it handles sexual assault complaints. However, by Thursday, the Education Department had not released any information about the case, and it would not say if it planned to.

The silence is a break from how the department closed major sexual assault investigations in recent years. Since 2014, it has issued press releases to announce when probes of how colleges handled rape reports ended. It generally posted on its website agreements reached between the schools and the department and the findings from the investigations, and it stated whether the school had violated Title IX, the gender equity law.

“This is deeply concerning,” Dana Bolger, a co-founder of the advocacy group Know Your IX, told BuzzFeed News. “Letters of finding are critical to exposing what’s gone on on campus, helping students hold their schools accountable, and affirming survivors’ experiences. Students and their families have the right to know of schools’ noncompliance with the law.”

Over the past month, advocates for sexual assault victims have hounded DeVos, urging her to continue Obama-era policies on how the department enforces Title IX. Many fear that the department will be less aggressive, and could become less transparent, in its handling of Title IX investigations.

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