New, controversial rules for colleges on sexual assault announced

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to change the rules regarding sexual assault on college and university campuses.

At the University of Washington, students may have a heightened awareness of the issue, but they also know it's still difficult for many to report sexual assault or harassment.

"I know people who have been assaulted in the past and have not had their voices heard, and it's a very real issue," said student Cameron Zinke in a brief interview.

“I think it depends on the person a lot of the time. I would hope that they'd report it 'cause it's some really serious stuff,” said student Matthew Cinnamon.


The new rules proposed by DeVos narrow the definition of sexual harassment and allow schools to offer accusers accommodations such as no-contact orders instead of investigating the incident.

The old definition was broadly defined as unwelcome sexual conduct. The new rule is limited to conduct so severe and pervasive that it denies a person access to the school's education program.

“We are absolutely for fairness. We believe in clear and transparent processes, and we want the truth to come out," said Mary Ellen Stone, director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

She believes the new proposal will discourage victims.

“It sounds like they are going to be rolling back some of the progress that we've made specifically, (rules encouraging) victims of sexual assault to come forward.”

Stone believes the changes could in fact make campuses more dangerous for victims and others.

“It doesn't offer the victim any meaningful protection. It also puts other students at risk.”

There will now be a 60-day comment period before the new rules take effect.