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More protection for accusers of campus sexual assaults under proposed rule changes

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

The U.S. Education Department issued sweeping and controversial proposed changes Friday to way colleges and universities handle sexual abuse cases. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the new rules that would give greater protections to accused students. 

Univesrity at Buffalo drector of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Sharon Nolan Weiss, tells WBFO News it's too soon to say how this will impact the way the University deals with cases.  

“Really the basic concern is how do you make sure that we’re reaching the right decision and assuring due process and also proceeding in a way that both parties are comfortable with, that isn’t re-traumatizing to people and that is fair. There’s a lot to balance there. Colleges and universities have really been making the best effort to provide that," explained Nolan Weiss.

DeVos said the current process is unfair to students accused of sexual misconduct.  The biggest proposed rule change would allow a student accused of the misconduct to conduct their own cross-examination of the accuser during a campus hearing. 

“The biggest change that they are proposing a right of direct cross-examination from an attorney to a student. You can see whether that student is the accused or the accuser, that idea of being questioned by a seasoned attorney as part of that process, is that going to have a chilling effect on people?” Nolan Weiss wonders.

DeVos said the overhaul would provide more transparency to Title IX grievance complaints.

“We’re in a period right now where we are going to have some extensive legal review to be able to give us guidance to what these proposed changes would mean," Nolan Weiss remarked.

The Department's proposed changes under Title IX will be open for public comment for 60-days before new proposed rules are finalized.

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