Responding in 2011 to a false narrative that sexual assault on college campuses was out of control, Russlyn Ali, at the time the assistant secretary for civil rights in Barack Obama’s Department of Education, penned what became known as the “Dear Colleague” letter.
It was a 19-page “significant guideline document” for colleges and universities to follow, but its major effects on campus life were to make it extremely difficult for a student accused of sexual assault to defend himself and to lower the standard required for disciplinary action to a simple preponderance of the evidence. Even with the reduced standard (or perhaps because of it), campus rape incidents continued to make headlines, including fake news like the University of Virginia story retracted in 2014 by Rolling Stone. ...The failure of the current system, however, means that something has to be done. While sexual assault is a problem on campus, there was already in place a lawful means of handling the issue. The problem was that victims were reluctant to put themselves through the process, and schools were fearful of the prospect of negative press from such proceedings. But preserving the rights of the accused and maintaining the presumption of innocence until being proven guilty — even if only by a standard of “clear and convincing evidence” common in civil trials — should be the standard. Let’s hope DeVos can make it right again."