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Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released finalized guidelines on Wednesday on how colleges should handle complaints of sexual assault and misconduct, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The rules grant additional protections for students and faculty accused of sexual assault or misconduct and overhaul Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. They go into effect before the fall semester on Aug. 14.

The big picture: The rules provide a narrower definition of sexual harassment that includes unwelcome conduct "so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive" that it "denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity," according to NBC News.

  • Allegations of stalking, domestic violence and dating violence must also be investigated.

The regulations require colleges to hold hearings with student victims and accused perpetrators during which they will be cross-examined with a lawyer or representative present.

  • They specify that schools are only obligated to investigate complaints that were filed through a formal process and that occurred within students' programs and activities.
  • Alleged perpetrators will have the presumption of innocence throughout the disciplinary process and access to all evidence collected against them.
  • Schools can only be found culpable of mishandling allegations if they have been proven “deliberately indifferent” in providing support to victims and investigating complaints.

What to watch: Victims rights groups say they will challenge the new rules in court. Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Times that victims "refuse to go back to the days when rape and harassment in schools were ignored and swept under the rug."

  • “Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are dead set on making schools more dangerous for everyone — even during a global pandemic,”Graves added.
  • "And if this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault."

Go deeper

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Staff for retiring Senate Republicans a K Street prize

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.