"We all have a part to play in standing up against sexual violence." I have said this many times when publicly discussing sexual misconduct on our campus, including in a September 2014 open letter to our student body published in the Bucknellian. An active, united front against such conduct is as critical today as it was then.
As you may know, the topic of campus sexual misconduct received renewed attention on campuses across the country beginning in April 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education released a "Dear Colleague Letter" (DCL) articulating its expectations regarding an institution's obligations to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Like many institutions, Bucknell revisited its conduct policies related to sexual misconduct in light of the DCL's guidance. We regularly review and improve our policies in this area.
On Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held a news conference to address the DCL and the manner in which colleges and universities across the country have been meeting their Title IX obligations, stating that the Department will be issuing new directives. In a follow-up interview, she added that she intends to "revoke or rescind" the DCL. Disturbingly, Secretary DeVos leveled overly broad criticisms of student sexual misconduct proceedings, selectively highlighting discrete experiences and improperly implying that they constitute the "current reality" on all campuses. Secretary DeVos' comments unfairly suggest that institutions of higher education are driven by something other than equity and accountability in their handling of sexual misconduct matters.
While I cannot speak for the thousands of colleges and universities across the country, I can say unequivocally that Secretary DeVos' comments do not represent Bucknell. We have been and remain committed to our efforts to prevent sexual misconduct. We have been and remain committed to providing all of our students with a fair process for the resolution of allegations of sexual misconduct. And we have been and remain committed to holding offenders accountable. These unwavering commitments are not the result of the DCL or other federal guidance; they are a reflection of who we strive to be as an institution.
I ended my September 2014 letter with a message that bears repeating today. "...We share a collective responsibility for improving our culture. ... Be engaged. Be aware. Take a stand."