January 12 2017
Betsy DeVos is unfit to serve as secretary of education because she...donated to a group that supports free speech and due process rights on college campuses.
Yes, you read that right. It's the position of a range of so-called progressive activists terrified that--horrors!-DeVos might actually do away with the Obama Administration's Education Department rules that force colleges to tilt their sexual-misconduct fact-finding procedures in the direction of accusers.
Specifically, DeVos, a 59-year-old businesswoman, philanthropist, and Republican Party stalwart, is under fire for donating at least $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit founded in 1999. A look at FIRE's website reveals the organization to be studiously nonpartisan: There is a prominent tribute to outgoing President Obama for his Jan. 9 farewell address endorsing open debate on campuses.
But FIRE has also been a tireless opponent of a 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter from the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requiring colleges and universities to use a low-level "preponderance of the evidence" standard in deciding whether sexual misconduct has occurred and to let accusers appeal decisions that don't go their way--a requirement that puts those accused of misconduct into double jeopardy. Furthermore, FIRE maintains, the OCR letter doesn't clearly distinguish sexual harassment from the mere exercise of free speech. Institutions that don't comply with the letter's mandates can lose federal funding as violators of Title IX, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.
Those positions--affording accused students procedural rights similar to those of other citizens accused of wrongdoing--are anathema to "campus rape culture"-obsessed feminists who insist that every accuser of sexual assault has to be telling the truth. And so we have the American Association of University Women, an organization that claims to be "bipartisan," writing this:
In the past DeVos has supported organizations like...the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has fought to weaken Title IX's protections for survivors of sexual assault and oppose recent guidance to support schools in its implementation.
And, as Politico reports:
The donations are “a red flag,” said Lisa Maatz, the top policy adviser at the American Association of University Women, which advocates for strict enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that governs sex discrimination, harassment and sexual assault on college campuses. “In the absence of an actual record … I think these kinds of donations take on even greater importance, because we have to rely on her contributions to inform us on particular issues.”
Democratic senators say they will question DeVos about whether she might be less vigilant than her predecessors about cracking down on campus sexual assault.
“Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,” said Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.)....
Of course, one major factor in the outcry is DeVos's support for charter schools and education vouchers, which infuriates the massively powerful and politically progressive public-school teachers' unions. And it's fascinating to see how far those progressives and their feminist allies will go to derail her nomination. Far enough to make her donations to a civil-rights organization a point of controversy.