April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. For college students, the issue on their campuses remains in flux. Last November, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled proposed changes to Title IX guidelines pertaining to campus sexual misconduct.
DeVos's proposal aims to improve due process for the accused by requiring live hearings and allowing survivors to be cross-examined.
Two months ago, the public comment period on those proposed changes closed. Jim Osborn, University of Wyoming Title IX coordinator, said it's unknown when a final version of those guidelines will be released.
Osborn oversees sexual misconduct investigations and hearings at UW. He said the changes proposed by DeVos would-among other things-limit colleges' ability to hold students accountable for sexual violence that occurs off campus. Osborn said that doesn't make sense when the majority of student-on-student sexual assault happens away from school grounds.
"There are always going to be cases when I think it is appropriate and necessary for schools to address behavior that happens off campus," said Osborn. "We do it with other sorts of cases as well. If a student gets a DUI, or alcohol violations, or gets in fights off campus, there can be on campus consequences."
Osborn said the federal government received over 100,000 comments on the proposed changes, which could explain why no release date has been scheduled. In the meantime, he said UW is working to improve prevention campaigns on campus.
"When the feds are telling us these are the standards we are going to hold you to, we remember that is the floor and not the ceiling," said Osborn. "We can always go beyond the minimum of what is expected. We should be doing more than the bare minimum."
Ongoing efforts to improve sexual assault response and prevention at UW are lead by the No More committee and UW Stop Violence. That includes recent efforts to raise money for a survivors emergency fund.