STATEMENT: New Guidelines on College Sexual Harassment Are Major Step Backward, CAP’s Shilpa Phadke Says

Washington, D.C. — After the Trump administration announced new guidelines for colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations, Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:

Today’s actions by the Trump administration send a clear message to survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment: You are on your own. At a time when leadership on addressing all forms of sexual misconduct is sorely needed, Secretary Betsy DeVos has made abundantly clear her disdain for the enormous progress made in recent years to combat sexual misconduct and create equitable educational environments where all students, across all genders, can learn and thrive.

This is a major step backwards in upholding the very purpose of Title IX—to eliminate sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. The administration’s actions incentivize schools to look the other way, silence survivors, and discourage efforts that stress taking responsibility for one’s actions. Students and schools deserve better.

These new regulations focus primarily on finding ways to reduce school liability, cement dangerous imbalances in procedural protections that favor students accused of sexual misconduct, and dissuade students from reporting sexual misconduct. That runs counter to Title IX’s anti-discrimination goals that are so essential to student learning, achievement, and growth.

It is critical that our educational leaders take immediate and bold action to confront sexual misconduct head-on and promote equity for all. They should create an environment where survivors are encouraged to come forward without rebuke and all parties are treated fairly. This includes campus policy reforms, new reporting mechanisms, and other survivor-centric federal and state legislative actions.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Colin Seeberger at cseeberger@americanprogress.org or 214.223.2913.