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The debate over Title IX and campus sexual assault

California Gov. Jerry Brown at an event in San Francisco. Photo: Eric Risberg / AP

On Monday, California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would codify Obama-era Title IX guidelines for investigating sexual harassment and assault on college campuses into law. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' is rolling back the regulations, which she called "broken for all students" — including victims and the accused.

Brown's quote, which echoed DeVos' words: "Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding ... It is time to pause and survey the land."

Why it matters

Sexual assault on college campuses is finally being taken seriously as a political issue, but Brown's veto of a bill that passed overwhelmingly in California's state senate — with all 81 Democrats voting "yes" — shows that combating it remains politically divisive.

The facts

  • DeVos announced she would rewrite the Obama administration's Title IX guidelines. One issue she raised was with "ambiguous and incredibly broad definitions of assault and harassment." She said, "if everything is harassment, then nothing is."
  • Her statements drew the ire of activists and women's groups around the country.
  • Rep. Jackie Speier, a California congresswoman, introduced a bill in early October that would preserve Obama-era regulations, per TIME. Speier's proposal would put a lower burden of proof on accusers, which was one of the controversial aspects of the Obama administration guidelines.
  • California's state senate passed a bill — vetoed by Brown — that protected some Title IX guidelines and even extended a number of them to K-12 schools, BuzzFeed reports. The bill was supported by Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system.
  • But Brown said he's "not prepared to codify additional requirements in reaction to a shifting federal landscape." Read his full veto message here.