The Department of Education’s new and much weaker Title IX rules on campus sexual assault and rape, pushed heavily by Secretary Betsy DeVos, go into effect today. Thanks to a trove of emails that were provided to the Nation, we now know that men’s rights groups were heavily involved in advocating for and in crafting the weakening of Obama-era guidelines for how educational institutions should address issues of rape and sexual assault. And they found an extremely willing and eager partner in top officials in DeVos’s Education Department, who together have embraced the narrative that there is a “crisis in false rape allegations” on our nation’s campuses.
It’s not a secret that DeVos’s Education Department met with men’s rights groups in 2017, including the National Coalition for Men (NCFM) and SAVE: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, as well as Families Advocating for Campus Equality, or FACE, a group started by women whose sons have been accused of sexual assault. But as the Nation reported, their involvement in the new rules went far beyond just a meeting:
From May to September 2017, the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights partnered with NCFMC, FACE, and SAVE to develop regulations on campus sexual assault. E-mails make clear that staffers from these organizations participated in conference calls, offered legal advice, and met with high-level employees at the Department of Education. The DOE even hired the main funder of SAVE to help draft new regulations and teamed up with FACE to try to produce supportive op-eds.
According to the Nation, it was Candice Jackson, the then-deputy assistant secretary at the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, who pushed for these groups to be heavily involved. Jackson is a rape survivor who has called the many women accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault as “fake victims” and who has said in the past that ninety percent of sexual assault accusations “fall into the category of, ‘We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” to give you an idea of her stance on sexual assault and rape.
Jackson, as the Nation reports, actively sought out the advice of NCFM advisor Gordon Finley, who provided her with “literature that emphasized sexual assault of men by women and posited that there was a ‘new war on men’” and that “claimed that 40 to 60 percent of rape allegations by women are false.”
And NCFM’s role went beyond a mere phone call or email exchange. Again, via the Nation:
Despite Finley’s misleading claims, contact between the DOE and NCFM continued. A month after Jackson called Finley, the Carolinas chapter of the NCFM had at least three more interactions with her office. A June 15, 2017, e-mail indicates that James Ferg-Cadima, the office for civil rights’ acting deputy assistant secretary for policy, met with NCFMC president Josefchuk. (Josefchuk declined to be interviewed for this piece.)
After that meeting, Josefchuk sent Ferg-Cadima a presentation claiming that men at college could be ensnared in a sexual assault investigation for drunken sexual encounters. “Drunk sex=RAPE,” one slide reads. Josefchuk described universities as “hostile to men” because of “the sexual grievance industry” and a “culture of presumed guilt.” The PowerPoint opened with a “Snowflake warning” and ended with an exhortation that NCFMC also featured prominently on its website at the time: “Don’t be THAT girl. Embarrassed by a hookup? Angry at a boyfriend? Willing to lie to destroy a life?”
In the presentation, Josefchuk claimed sexual assault was rare at universities. By looking at the number of rape and sexual assault convictions at the three colleges, he wrote, “1 out of 5? More like 1 out of 1500 [women are raped during college]!”
This presentation led Jackson to invite Josefchuk to speak with other DOE staff.
FACE and its co-president Cynthia Purcell Garrett—who tends to engage in quite a bit of victim-blaming during interviews—were also involved, exchanging more than two dozen emails with Jackson in 2017 when the new regulations were first being discussed. And FACE’s involvement, too, went beyond just emails:
Jackson later asked the group to show support for DeVos’s revision of Title IX regulations by writing op-eds that explained how Title IX proceedings under the Obama administration violated due process. DOE staffers helped FACE work on these pieces and suggested places to publish them.
The op-eds told, often anonymously and in harrowing terms, the personal stories of young men harmed by rape accusations. One man, who said he was falsely accused, wrote, “I can’t help thinking how different my life would be in the absence of OCR’s 2011 Title IX guidance.” It is unclear if the op-eds were ever published. (Despite the existence of these e-mails, Garrett denied that FACE sent these op-eds to the DOE, telling The Nation, “We never did draft any op-eds, ever. At anybody’s request. Never. We did not draft any at that time.”)
But perhaps the closest linkage between the DOE and these men’s rights groups came when the DOE hired Hans Bader, SAVE’s main funder and an overall extremely bad man who funds the Center for Equal Opportunity as well as Project Prevention-CRACK, a group that as the Nation put it “sterilizes drug users in exchange for cash,” to work on the new regulations. Bader was, as one activist described to the Nation, “one of the principal if not the principal driving force behind the new Title IX regulations.” And the emails that the Nation obtained confirm his important role:
A day before DeVos publicly declared her intention to overturn and revise the Obama administration’s Title IX regulations, Jackson sent Bader excerpts of the speech. “Feel free to call me (night or day) to talk it over,” Jackson wrote him on September 6, 2017. Bader answered with advice on how the DOE could withdraw previous guidance, writing: “It conflicts with past administrative practice (and court rulings) about the reach of Title IX, by micromanaging school discipline.”
That night, Jackson responded enthusiastically: “Thank YOU, Hans! Your insights are invaluable.”
Altogether, the involvement of groups like FACE, SAVE, and the National Coalition for Men paint a picture of an Education Department that was eager to find allies in their efforts to give cover to both universities tasked with investigating Title IX claims as well as students who are accused of sexual assault.
You can read the full report in the Nation (and you absolutely should) here.