Education

Senate Confirms Biden Nominee Who Eliminated Due Process Rights For College Students Accused Of Sexual Assault

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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The Senate confirmed former Obama administration official Catherine Lhamon to return to her previous position in the Department of Education, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, on Wednesday in a party-line vote.

Lhamon, who held the position from 2013-2016, staunchly opposed due process rights for college students, professors, administrators, and staffers accused of sexual assault and harassment during her tenure. In addition to citing her opposition to campus due process, Republicans argued her confirmation would lead to male students playing in girls’ sports leagues, and male students using women’s bathrooms. (RELATED: Obama Appointee To Activists: White House ‘Aggressively Engaged’ In Transgender Fight)

“Ms. Lhamon has a history of using inflammatory rhetoric, violating students’ constitutionally based right to due process, and abusing regulatory power,” Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said in August, after Lhamon’s nomination stalled in committee. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer used a discharge petition to bring the nomination to the Senate floor.

Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 Senate tie to seal the nomination.

Lhamon’s positions on Title IX, the amendment prohibiting sex discrimination in education, were also a crucial issue. During her tenure in the Obama administration, Lhamon argued that sexual assault and harassment could constitute sex discrimination by creating a hostile educational environment.

She wrote in a 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter that protections for individuals accused of sexual harassment and assault, such as cross-examination and a neutral judge, were not necessary for fair proceedings. Many left-wing activists claim that such protections can traumatize victims. Lhamon later claimed that due process protections, instituted during the Trump administration by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, would “tak[e] us back to the bad old days when it was permissible to rape and sexually harass students with impunity.”

Lhamon refused to walk back that claim during her confirmation hearings, and argued that the DeVos regulations do not require a presumption of innocence for accused students.

President Barack Obama appointed Lhamon to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shortly before he left office. She vacated the position upon President Joe Biden’s inauguration, when he appointed Lhamon to his Domestic Policy Council, making her Deputy Director for Racial Justice and Equity.