Sex assault amendment to alter guidelines

Education secretary reshapes Title IX’s enforcement edict

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Zero tolerance for any type of harassment continues to be the standard throughout the Contra Costa College Community College District, despite Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plans to amend Title IX to change the way colleges handle allegations of sexual assault.

The 1972 education amendment Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial aid.

“Everyone has a right to an education to be free from any type of assault that may come,” Contra Costa College Title IX Coordinator Vicki Ferguson said.

“She (DeVos) is proposing to make the evidence lie more on the victim, which looks like it supports the perpetrator to where it will be more difficult to charge, or even discipline, someone who has been accused of any type of harassment that falls under Title IX.”

In the last five years at CCC, four cases of sexual misconduct have been reported to her and have been followed through, Ferguson said.

Already, victims on college campuses throughout the nation hold back from reporting, Ferguson said.

“I think it would prevent some victims from reporting if it becomes official that more evidence needs to be provided before any type of action has to be taken.”

CCC student Victoria Zaragoza said with DeVos’ move ready to be implemented, it will be more difficult (to come forward) and victims will be pushed further into the shadows.

“I’ve known people who have had it (sexual assault) happen to them and it takes them so long to come out and say something until it’s too late because they feel the person isn’t going to be prosecuted,” Zaragoza said.

“You know when you do something wrong to somebody. You don’t deserve a voice after you do something to somebody. You are not a person after that, you are a monster.”

The 2011 Obama administration memo known as the “Dear Colleague” letter outlines guidelines on how colleges handle sexual assault allegations.

Any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, according to the “Dear Colleague” letter, is sexual harassment.

The harassing conduct creates a hostile environment for the students and can interfere with their ability to participate in, or benefit from, the college’s programs.

Ferguson said CCC uses the “Dear Colleague” letter and will continue to do so despite the federal changes DeVos has discussed. “We have our own policy around low tolerance for any type of harassment of sexual violence.”

Ferguson said her role as Title IX coordinator is being committed to making sure that policies are followed, especially around the student code of conduct that can be found in the college catalog.

While changes start at the Trump administration with Title IX, Ferguson said they have not received direction from the district, but will continue with trainings educating students, faculty and staff.

At fellow district college Los Medanos, Senior Dean of Students Services Gail Newman said he is not aware of conversations regarding the latest Title IX changes at LMC.

“Until there are broader discussions within our district and guidance on a change in direction, we will continue to maintain our current practices and procedures,” Newman said.