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Black men protected most by Trump reforms to Obama-Biden campus sexual assault rules, experts say

Critics say there were 'parallels between the treatment of black men accused of rape during the infamous Jim Crow period and the adjudication of sexual assault cases in the current [Obama] era.'

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Campus sexual assault
Rally against sexual assault, Howard University, Washington, D.C., 2016.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Updated: May 12, 2020 - 4:10pm

Critics say black men were disproportionately hit by Obama-Biden campus sexual assault rules denying due process and are cheering the Trump administration's reversal of those policies.

On Wednesday, the Department of Education released new Title IX regulations that codify the obligation of schools to investigate claims of sexual assault and harassment. Previous rules under the Obama administration laid the groundwork for what exists today on many campuses: byzantine sexual misconduct disciplinary systems that investigate and punish all manner of sex-related behavior — from sexually suggestive jokes to drunken couplings to forcible rape. Critics say these extra-judicial systems often abandon the presumption of innocence and stack the deck against accused students, denying them basic due process. 

"Once again, the Trump administration is righting a wrong perpetrated by Joe Biden, who as Vice President spearheaded a Title IX initiative that attempted to overhaul the assumptions on which our legal system is built and undermined the ability of the accused, usually men and often men of color, to get a fair hearing," Andrew Clark, Rapid Response Director for the Trump campaign, wrote in a press statement. "Black men were disproportionately hurt by Biden’s campus sexual assault policy."

In his statement, Clark linked to a 2018 report from The College Fix titled, "Believe the survivor? Here’s 11 times young black men were railroaded by campus sexual assault claims."

"Six years’ worth of dismal due process rights for the accused has led to hundreds of young men fighting sexual assault claim allegations in court," wrote The College Fix's Michael Jones. "Even more concerning, this lack of protection has rendered one group particularly vulnerable — young black men." 

Jones cited a report from Center for Prosecutor Integrity, a nonprofit group that fights the “over-criminalization” of sexual activities. The report argues there are “parallels between the treatment of Black men accused of rape during the infamous Jim Crow period, and the adjudication of sexual assault cases in the current era.”

Jones also referred to Harvard Law School Professor Janet Halley, who has helped represent both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators in campus sexual-misconduct investigations. Halley testified before Congress in 2015 that male students of color are accused and punished at "unreasonably high" rates.

In her written testimony to Congress, which was an article she'd written for The American Prospect Magazine, former federal judge Nancy Gertner, a retired Harvard Law professor, also pointed to "the racial implications of rape accusations, the complex intersection of bias, stereotyping, and sex in the prosecution of this crime."

The Trump campaign noted that multiple journalists and political analysts have called attention to Biden's politically selective standards for weighing guilt and innocence in sexual assault cases

“It’s despicable that Joe Biden lowered the standards for accusations on college campuses to basically install a presumption of guilt for the accused," Paris Dennard, Black Voices for Trump Advisory Board member, told Just the News. "There is no doubt these policies disproportionally impacted students of color. Now that he is in the hot seat, Biden doesn’t want that same standard applied to him, and that is the height of hypocrisy. I am confident the black community will see the arrogance of Joe Biden for thinking the same rules don’t apply to him.”  

John Burnett, a Republican strategist and African-American activist based in New York City, told Just the News that the Trump administration's new campus rules dovetail with prior actions Trump has taken to reform the criminal justice system, including a law known as the First Step Act. A report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that 91% of the 1,051 people who received retroactive prison sentence reductions under the act were black. 

"Biden is the liberal that Malcolm X warned black America about over 50 years ago," Burnett said. "The Trump administration made criminal justice reform a priority by passing the First Step Act, and currently working on a Second Step Act, while undoing the Title IX campus initiative to curtail due process rights that disproportionately impacted black men. Hence, he is dismantling Biden's legacy of mass incarceration." 

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News. Biden has enjoyed strong support among black voters during the Democratic presidential primary, with key support from Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a well-known black civil rights leader, playing a pivotal role in turning Biden's political fortunes around after stinging defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Supporters of the new Trump-era regulations, which carry the force of law, say they will help both alleged victims along with the accused.

“The new rules protect survivors by making college disciplinary decisions more likely to withstand legal scrutiny and by emphasizing the need for supportive measures for victims — even for those who choose not to file a formal complaint,” Jennifer C. Braceras, director of the Independent Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “Only by addressing claims of sexual misconduct and providing due process can colleges begin to restore faith in the system.”