President Biden on Monday is expected to sign an executive order directing the Department of Education to review Trump-era changes to Title IX regulations that prohibit sex discrimination in federally funded institutions, including rules governing how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault.
In May, former education secretary Betsy DeVos put a new system into place mandating due process rights for individuals accused of harassment or assault, in which the accused has the right to a live hearing and to cross-examine accusers. While supporters cheered the due process protections, Democrats, women’s groups and others have argued the system allows assailants and schools to shirk responsibility and discourage victims from coming forward.
Biden’s order will direct the department to evaluate whether the regulation is “consistent with the policies” of the Biden administration, according to the Washington Post. However, it is unclear how the president would work to undo the rule, if the department called to do so.
The order calls for a review of other regulations, orders, guidances and policies to determine whether they are consistent with the administration’s policy to “guarantee education free from sexual violence,” officials told the outlet.
President Obama’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which was sent to 7,000 universities that receive federal funding, is widely credited with changing the way that sexual assaults on campus are investigated and punished. The letter instructed administrators to use preponderance of evidence, the lowest possible evidentiary standard, when investigating sexual assaults. The shift towards prioritizing the rights of accusers resulted in a wave of litigation brought in response to the expulsion of male students who weren’t permitted to adequately defend themselves in campus tribunal proceedings.
Biden will also sign a second executive order on Monday, which is International Women’s Day, establishing a White House Gender Policy Council, according to the Washington Post.
The four-person council will review domestic and foreign policy and programs with the goal of allowing for “full participation of all people” regardless of gender. It will address issues including sexual harassment, family caregiving, gender-based violence and gender equity globally.
The Obama administration similarly had the White House Council on Women and Girls, though Biden’s iteration has been renamed partially to show that transgender issues would be included, an official told the paper.
“There will be a focus on women and girls, but the choice of the name of the council is really intentional,” the official said.