Betsy DeVos Fighting For All The Oppressed Young Brett Kavanaughs
Donald Trump's Cabinet has experienced a recent flurry of resignations and to-the-curb kickings. Head childnapper in charge Kirstjen Nielsen is also on her way out, freeing me from ever again having to worry about spelling her name correctly. My recent stint on the Cindy Hyde-Smith beat helped me master "Mississippi" without blinking, but Nielsen always demanded a Google cut-and-paste. She wasn't worth it.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is one of the few remaining OG members of the Russian doo-wop group Donald Trump & The Crony Capitalists. She is also the still-reigning, undefeated title holder for absolute worst Cabinet official. DeVos manages to combine incompetence with evil in equal measures of cheap booze.
Today offers some more annoying DeVos news. Remember almost two years ago when some protestors heckled DeVos at a middle school in DC just a week after the Senate narrowly confirmed her? She whined to the Justice Department and somehow was granted a security detail that will cost taxpayers $19.8 million through September of 2019. That's almost half the cost of one of her yachts. Yes, yachts; she has 10. She also got a few extra billion for the pile in September when her father-in-law went off to that great tax dodge in the sky. Look, I don't want anyone to hurt the lady, but maybe she can pay for her own damn security like a 1990s hip-hop star. Maxine Waters has bombs mailed to her, and I think the New Black Panthers are guarding the sister for free.
Meanwhile, DeVos's Edumacation Department released its plans for major overhauls to how colleges handle charges of sexual misconduct. DeVos's proposal would replace Obama-era guidelines she torched last year because she thought they were unfair to students accused of sexual misconduct. It is immediately suspicious whenever conservatives suddenly care about the rights of the accused. This is after all the same administration whose Justice Department under departed racist fossil Jeff Sessions imprisoned immigrant children and ramped up the war on jazz cigarettes. Yet DeVos is suddenly concerned that upstanding young white men will have their promising swimming careers derailed like Brock Turner just because they are guilty of rape.
DeVos's plan would "narrow" the definition of sexual harassment -- probably revising it to nothing short of what conservatives consider "legitimate rape." And as for rape, DeVos thinks it's a swell idea for students accused of sexual misconduct to
interrogate and bully cross-examine accusers in campus hearings. It reminds me of that painfully dated episode of "Star Trek" where Kirk's evil twin sexually assaults Yeoman Rand, and she has to report the issue to Spock and McCoy (both men) with Kirk present! When I watched this again recently, I wondered what the hell happened to all our sexual harassment and victims' rights laws. Well, it looks like Betsy DeVos happened. She's worse than the Romulans. (Naturally, no one believed Rand until random dude showed up.)
DeVos's new regulations would only hold schools responsible for investigating incidents that are part of campus programs and activities. But students go off campus, right? Is a student on their own if assaulted by another student in a bar or private residence?
Conservatives have argued against the Obama-era guidelines, suggesting they promoted "kangaroo courts." They should probably chill out. As always, they suddenly turn into ACLU members when there's a potential threat of accountability to their own children. Fox ran with the story of black student Malik St. Hilaire, whom a white student falsely accused of rape. It suits their narrative. They are less bothered by the many non-students wrongly imprisoned for crimes that didn't commit.
"Narrowing" definitions of sexual harassment in a post-#MeToo era is cluelessly regressive. From the Obama administration's 2011 guidelines:
"Because students often experience the continuing effects of off-campus sexual harassment in the educational setting, schools should consider the effects of the off-campus conduct when evaluating whether there is a hostile environment on campus. For example, if a student alleges that he or she was sexually assaulted by another student off school grounds, and that upon returning to school he or she was taunted and harassed by other students who are the alleged perpetrator's friends, the school should take the earlier sexual assault into account in determining whether there is a sexually hostile environment."
This is incredibly reasonable. It's repulsive to me that DeVos would want to return to the "bad old days," which were very much like the ending of the "Star Trek" episode I mentioned.
No, Spock, the deranged psychopath who sexually assaulted your colleague does not have "interesting qualities." What the hell is wrong with you? Rand is likely traumatized but she doesn't even get rape-related shore leave. She's back at work, where she's being sexually harassed about being almost raped. This is the future Trump wants.
DeVos is just one of many Aunt Lydias in Trump's orbit who betray women on behalf of entitled men everywhere. I'd like to think she feels just a little guilty when she's chilling on her yacht, but I doubt it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).