Miltenberg: “Campus Sexual Assault Policy Changes Not Widely Known,” Inside Higher Ed


A majority of Americans surveyed have no knowledge of upcoming changes to how colleges must respond to sexual misconduct on campus, according to a new poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University and sponsored by a law firm known for representing students accused of sexual misconduct. Sixty percent of the survey’s 1,003 respondents, all of whom were over 18 years old, said they had heard or read “nothing at all” about new regulations issued by the United States Department of Education that will govern the policies and procedures used by colleges and universities for handling sexual misconduct complaints. The new procedures fall under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions, and they must be implemented by Aug. 14. The survey respondents were interviewed from May 20 to 25, weeks after the regulations were issued on May 6. The survey is believed to be the first to gauge the opinions of a representative sample of a cross-section of Americans on the new Title IX policies. Krista Jenkins, professor of government and politics and executive director of Fairleigh Dickinson Poll, the university’s public research center, said the lacking public awareness about the changes may be due to the regulations being issued, and the poll conducted, in the midst of “a news environment that’s been dominated by COVID.” Sage Carson, manager for Know Your IX, a national advocacy organization for survivors of sexual violence on campus, said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s timing was to blame. “It’s been extremely difficult to get folks to talk about this issue and organize,” Carson said. “They were simply trying to shove through a bad rule when no one’s paying attention.” An overwhelming majority of the survey respondents, 84 percent, said all colleges should have the “same legal protections” for students when a report of sexual assault is made, the survey found. Respondents were split when asked whether campus is a “difficult place” for victims of sexual assault to safely meet the person they are accusing or if colleges “need to provide the opportunity for those accused to meet their accuser.” Forty-three percent said that colleges are a “difficult place” for such meetings, while 47 percent said colleges need to provide them. Jenkins, who helped develop the survey, said while most survey respondents indicated they support consistent policies and procedures among all higher ed institutions, they were conflicted about what the procedures should entail. “What those same legal protections look like become a source of uncertainty,” Jenkins said. The respondents were also asked if they are in favor of colleges providing a live hearing and cross-examination process with attorneys present, which has been one of the most controversial aspects of the new requirements. Responses were mixed on whether an in-person or remote hearing would be appropriate. Sixty-two percent favored an in-person option, whereas 67 percent favored a remote meeting. “That’s one of the most hotly contested issues,” Andrew Miltenberg, managing partner at Nesenoff & Miltenberg, the firm that sponsored the poll, said of the hearing requirement. “On one hand, you don’t want to turn every sexual assault hearing into someone towering over and berating the complainant. On the other hand, there has to be a manner in how you can, in real time, question statements made by a complainant or witness.”

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