One day after seven women at Dartmouth College filed a $70 million class-action lawsuit against the university for failing to take seriously their claims of “Animal House”-like sexual harassment and assault by a group of professors, the Trump administration proposed a revamp of Obama-era guidelines for colleges and universities that would shrink the definition of sexual assault and harassment, and provide more protections for those accused of sexual misconduct.
“Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” said Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is leading the administration’s approach. “We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it while ensuring a fair grievance process.”
The news didn’t sit so well with the Dartmouth women. “It’s kind of poetic that these kinds of things are happening at the same time,” said Vassiki Chauhan, one of the women who filed the lawsuit. She worries that the proposed rule changes will make it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment to come forward.
The Dartmouth women alleged in a 72-page complaint that three tenured professors in the school’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, “leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students.”
“It would be interesting to examine our experiences in light of Betsy DeVos’ policy proposals and how hard it would have been to come forward,” Chauhan told Vice News.
The rules will be posted online and will be open for public comment for 60 days, after which the Education Department will determine whether to make the rules final.