The new policy also suggests that harassment does not have to be “objectively offensive” to warrant complaints, and demands colleges take action against alleged aggressors even before judicial hearings are held.
A “culture of rape and sexual violence … is not exclusive to our campus,” Brittany Salley-Rains, co-director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Montana, told reporters at a press conference. “There needs to be more prevention going forward and the university administration needs to do more to bring attention to the detrimental culture that threatens women."
The new policy outlined in the University of Montana agreement comes in response to campus exposés about lax enforcement of sexual harassment rules, the signing by President Obama in March of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act to make it easier to report sex crimes on campus, and a series of probes by the Department of Education into major universities that have allegedly failed to properly address sexual harassment and assault allegations.
To be sure, the new rules still require that sex crime allegations suggest either pervasive or severe acts or language, and still require an objective standard before allegations are upheld, according to the Department of Education’s letter to the University of Montana.