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Changing Rules For Sexual Assault On Campus: What It Means For Vermont Colleges

Protesters carry signs at a Chicago rally against sexual assault and rape culture in 2015.
Bob Simpson
Flickr Creative Commons
Protesters carry signs at a Chicago rally against sexual assault and rape culture in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Education is proposing new rules for how sexual assault and harassment is handled on college campuses. The changes could limit the types of complaints schools can investigate and potentially allow live hearings where victims could be cross-examined.

The department says it's to protect both accusers and the accused, but victim advocates fear the changes could discourage victims from reporting abuse.The rule changes come under Title IX, the 1972 federal civil rights law that, among its provisions, lays out how schools should address sex discrimination and allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Attorney Jeffrey Nolan with the Dinse law firm in Burlington works with colleges and universities across the country on higher education issues, including Title IX compliance and threat assessments. 

He told Vermont Edition there’s a misperception current laws don’t do enough to protect people accused of sexual assault—and he thinks some of the proposed mandates go too far.

"I find that schools, across the board, are very intent on being fair to all the parties, having procedures that appropriately gather information, do an appropriate investigation and decide things fairly," Nolan says.

"To me, this is seeking to swing a pendulum back that doesn’t necessarily need to be swung."

Listen to the full program above to also hear from Hannah Weiss, a graduate student at the University of Vermont, who works with student survivors of sexual violence and has concerns about the proposed rule changes. 

And Matthew Roche, Norwich University’s Title IX Coordinator, who explains the university's current approach to sexual assault and harassment allegations and ways the new rules may—or may not—improve that process.

Public comment on the proposed Title IX changes can be submitted via the online portal.

Broadcast live on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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