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Running head: FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES

CONFRONTING CAMPUS SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: FACTORS INFLUENCING


UNIVERSITY RESPONSES IN THE WAKE OF FEDERAL INVESTIGATION
By
Asheeka Desai

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation with


HONORS
from the department of
SOCIOLOGY

Examining Committee:
Dr. Laura M. Carpenter, Honors Advisor
Associate Professor of Sociology
Dr. Holly J. McCammon, Thesis Advisor
Professor of Sociology
Dr. Daniel B. Cornfield, Second Reader
Professor of Sociology

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY
APRIL 2016

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FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
Abstract
While sexual misconduct has been heavily studied by many scholars, pre-existing research has
yet to compare sexual misconduct policies across universities and to identify the existence of and
provide an explanation of variation in those policies. To fill this gap, this study examines
previous and current sexual misconduct policies of ten universities in the United States and
identifies underlying factors associated with these policies. Comparative qualitative content
analysis of these policies reveals that despite the vastly different institutional profiles of each
school in the sample, they have responded similarly to campus sexual misconduct since 2011.
Findings demonstrate a version of contagion among university responses, dictated largely by
guidelines set forth by the federal government, specifically in the April 2011 Dear Colleague
Letter and the 2014 First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual
Assault. While findings indicate that federal pressure plays an integral role in policy change
within the university setting, the need for comprehensive reform of institutional structures and
culture change in order to successfully combat campus sexual misconduct cannot be overstated.

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Table of Contents
Introduction..4
Literature Review.5
Theoretical Framework..10
Research Problem ..13
Hypotheses.14
Methods..15
Findings .19
Discussion ..29
Conclusion .34
References..36
Appendix A: Interview Guide40
Appendix B: Initial Recruitment E-mail41
Appendix C: Follow-up Recruitment E-mail.42

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FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
Confronting Campus Sexual Misconduct:
Factors Influencing University Responses in the Wake of Federal Investigation
I.

INTRODUCTION

College campuses are supposed to be environments of safety for students; however,


historically speaking, United States college campuses have been dangerous places for women.
Although Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 addressed gender
discrimination and sexual harassment, sexual victimization of women on college campuses did
no gain widespread national attention until the passage of the Student Right-to-Know and
Campus Security Act of 1990 (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Since that time, Congress has
passed further legislation to address the issue of sexual violence, including the 1992 Campus
Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights, the 1998 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security
and Campus Crime Statistics Act, and the 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act and
has also issued federal guidance for how institutions of higher education should respond to
situations of sexual misconduct in documents such as the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the
2014 First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. These
two documents reminded institutions of their obligations under Title IX to address issues of
sexual misconduct.
Title IX requires that if a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination
or violence that is creating a hostile environment for a student based on group membership or
identity, it must act to eliminate it, remedy the harm caused, and prevent its recurrence. As of
April 2016, 161 institutions of higher education are under federal investigation by the United
States Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights due to concerns about whether they
violated Title IX in their handling of sexual misconduct. The institutions that comprise the list

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have very different profiles. Public schools, private schools, historically Black colleges and
universities, predominantly White institutions, large schools, small schools, ivy-league
institutions, liberal arts colleges, faith-based institutions, etc., all appear on the list no type of
school is exempt.
This study aims to determine whether certain institutional factors impact the ways in
which colleges and universities respond to the issue of sexual assault. I used comparative
qualitative content analysis to examine sexual misconduct policy and campus climate at ten
universities around the nation. My goal was to discover what factors, if any, drive institutions of
higher education to respond to issues of sexual misconduct differently.
II.

LITERATURE REVIEW

College campuses can be microcosms that foster sexual misconduct. Although many
sexual assaults, regardless of context, involve common variables such as the consumption of
alcohol, a known perpetrator, and low reporting rates, there are certain risk factors that are
specific to the college population. These common risks are new social networks, very high rates
of alcohol consumption, sorority and fraternity membership, and student athletics.
College is a time where students are forced to create new social networks. This pressure
to socialize can prove to be very dangerous for students, especially those in their first year. The
Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study found that more than half of all college sexual assaults
occur in August, September, or October (Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, & Martin, 2007). The
CSA findings also indicate that women who experience sexual assault during college are most
likely to be victimized early in their college career (Krebs et al., 2007). Numerous research
findings have echoed those of the CSA and sexual assault activists have identified the first six to
eight weeks of college, known as the Red Zone, as the time period when first-year students are

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most likely to experience sexual assault. Kimble et al. (2008) found substantial support for the
existence of the Red Zone, with research revealing that there were more reports of unwanted
sexual experiences during this early time of the academic year. This can be attributed to several
reasons, including: the need for new social networks, pressure to fit in, being less accustomed to
a lack of parental supervision, increased independence, a new environment, and alcohol
consumption.
There is a very strong correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.
Studies illustrate that alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in the majority of campus sexual assaults
(Chesney-Lind 1998; Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, & Martin, 2009). The College Alcohol
Study showed that 82% of students who experienced sexual assault during the academic year
were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (Krebs et al., 2009). Further, Koss (1998)
reported that 74% of sexual assault perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
at the time of perpetration. These facts suggest that the majority of campus assaults occur in the
context of parties or other settings in which alcohol is present (Armstrong, Hamilton, &
Sweeney, 2006). The use of alcohol can be problematic on many levels. Alcohol can impair
higher order cognitive processing and reduce motor skills which can leave individuals in very
dangerous situations (Abbey, 2002). While alcohol can greatly limit a victims ability to vocalize
their concerns, it can also limit the ability of an intoxicated perpetrator to recognize social cues
that are being communicated by the victim (Abbey, 2002). Alcohol consumption is a central
component of mainstream culture on the majority of college campuses across the country, and
until dependence on alcohol in social situations is addressed, alcohol use will continue to
increase the risk of sexual assault.

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Sorority and fraternity membership have been proven to increase alcohol consumption.
Greek letter organizations create a unique culture on college campuses and members of these
organizations are considered high-risk for both perpetration and victimization of sexual
misconduct. Almost half of the reported sexual assaults that occur on college campuses occur in
a fraternity house, with half of those perpetuated during a fraternity event or by a fraternity
member (Mohler-Kuo et. al., 2004) and research shows that sorority women are four times more
likely to be sexually assaulted than non-sorority women (Minow & Einolf, 2009).
Student athletes are another collegiate group that perpetrate higher-than-average rates of
sexual assault. According to the famous Benedict-Crosset Study, student athletes comprise just
4% of the average college campus population, but commit 19% of reported sexual assaults
(Crosset, Benedict, & McDonald, 1995). Many high-profile sexual assault cases in recent years
have involved student athletes: Jameis Winston of Florida State University, Brandon Vandenburg
and Corey Batey of Vanderbilt University, and Torian White of the University of California Los
Angeles. Warsaw (1998) explains that the rate of sexual violence is higher among this population
of college students because of three main factors: (1) they are trained to be assertive on the field,
(2) they are revered by female fans, and (3) they have earned high social status on campus and in
the community.
Perhaps the high number of sexual assaults perpetrated by men in Greek letter
organizations and athletic organizations can be explained by routine activities theory and male
peer support theory. Routine activities theory posits that criminal events result from likely
offenders, suitable targets, and the absence of capable guardians against crime converging in
time and space (Cohen & Felson, 1979). According to Cohen and Felson (1979), social structures
often produce this convergence, thus allowing illegal activities to feed upon the legal activities of

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everyday life. Further, male peer support theory argues that attachments to male peers in certain
all-male peer groups, and the resources these peers provide encourage, legitimate, and support
the abuse of women (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 1993).
Schwartz et al. (2001) conducted a study of factors associated with acquaintance rape to
determine the association between acquaintance rape and drinking, drug abuse, and male peer
support for abusing women under certain conditions. Results supported routine activities theory
as well as male peer support theory. The study revealed that males who drank two or more times
per week and had male peers who supported emotional and physical violence were almost ten
times more likely than males without these traits to admit to being a sexual aggressor (Schwartz
et al., 2001). This study supports the claims of many scholars that in order to move away from a
rape-supportive culture, men and their role in the educational setting must be prioritized. Phillips
(2012) posits that a culture supportive of rape myths not only blames victims of sexual assault
and gendered violence, but also eliminates the males responsibility and allows them to continue
to live in a male centered and dominated society. Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) define rape
myths as attitudes and generally false beliefs about rape that are widely held and that serve to
both deny and justify male sexual violence against women. A culture supportive of rape myths
becomes even more of a problem when boys grow up in this society and are socialized to accept
these roles and continue to perpetuate a rape-supportive culture (Phillips, 2012).
The question of whether university environments can move away from exhibiting rapesupportive culture and toward exhibiting rape-free culture is important to consider. According to
Sanday (1996), rape is not an unavoidable fact of human nature; in fact, there are cultures in the
world in which rape and sexual violence are virtually unknown. Sanday (1981) studied 95
different different societies and found that 47% were rape-free, 17% were rape-prone, and

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36% were rape-present. She defines rape-free societies as those in which the act of rape is
either infrequent or does not occur she does not suggest that rape is entirely absent in these
societies, but rather, uses the term rape-free as a label to indicate that sexual aggression is not
socially acceptable and is punished very severely (Sanday, 1981). Rape-prone societies are
defined as those in which perpetration of rape is high, rape is excused as a ceremonial expression
of masculinity, or rape is an act by which men are allowed to punish or threaten women (Sanday,
1981). Rape-present societies are those in which reports of rape exist, but the incidence was
unknown (Sanday, 1981). Fifteen years after her first study, Sanday (1996) used her prior
research findings and generalized them to college campuses, concluding that campuses do not
have to be rape-prone; instead, we should work to make them rape-free. Sanday (1996) admits
that she was unable to find a rape-free campus in her research, but she believes that they do exist
based on anecdotal information. Sandays (1996) findings point to the idea that sexual violence is
not a fact of human nature and can, in fact, be adequately addressed and prevented by institutions
of higher education in this country.
A similar study, exploring high versus low risk environments of generating sexually
violent behavior, was conducted by Boswell and Spade in 1996 who observed the interactions
between men and women at eight fraternities at Lehigh University. The researchers identified
four fraternities as being high risk of generating sexually violent behavior, and identified four as
being low risk. Based on observations, Boswell and Spade (1996) found that low risk fraternity
parties exhibited balanced gender ratios, cross-gender socialization, no profanity or yelling, and
respect for women. High risk fraternity parties, on the other hand, exhibited skewed gender
rations, little cross-gender socialization, little respect for women, hostility and profanity amongst
party-goers, loud music that prevented communication, and other characteristics supportive of

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rape culture (Boswell & Spade, 1996). Rape culture was not found in all fraternities on Lehighs
campus. In fact, group norms and individual behavior changed as students went from one place
to another, for example, from fraternity houses to off-campus bars, Boswell and Spade (1996)
conclude that the group norms of some settings promoted certain behaviors that reinforced a rape
culture, a set of values and beliefs that provide an environment conducive to rape. Perhaps the
most important conclusion and implication of Boswell and Spades research is that rape cannot
be seen as an isolated act blamed on individual behavior and tendencies. Rather, we must
consider the characteristics of the settings that reinforce behaviors dominant in rape culture
(Boswell & Spade, 1996).
III.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

This research is guided by studies of the factors associated with organizational change in
higher education and seeks to understand why some institutions of higher education have
adopted progressive sexual assault policies while others have not.
Washington and Ventresca (2004) identify three mechanisms that drive organizational
change: dominant logic consistency, rationalized external charters, and peer emulation. An
organizations dominant logic is akin to its dominant ideology in that it is guided by the cultures,
practices, and norms developed throughout the organizations history (Southall, Nagel, Amis, &
Southall, 2008). Southall et. al. (2008) argue that the dominant logic of an organization
establishes the precedent for innovation and reform. Thus, dominant logic consistency, describes
changes that occur in alignment with the dominant logic of an organization. For example, Binder
(2000) discusses three cases in which advocates fought to have an Afrocentric curriculum
implemented in public schools social studies and history classes: (1) Atlanta, Georgia, (2)
Washington, D.C., and (3) New York City, New York. While the advocates all made similar

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claims about the legitimacy of Afrocentrism, different locations achieved different outcomes
(Binder, 2000). Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia, where more than 90% of students are African
American, successfully reformed the educational program to include an Afrocentric curriculum,
while New York City, with only 20% of African American students failed to do so (Binder,
2000). In short, the local organizational practices that were in place in each location significantly
influenced the advocates ability to effect change in the system. The use of dominant logic
consistency in Atlanta made curricular change possible.
The second mechanism outlined by Washington and Ventresca (2004), rationalized
external charters, describes the role that pressure external to an organization has in effecting
change. For example, Yung (2015) compared sexual assault report data submitted by universities
while being audited for Clery Act violations with the data from years before and after such audits
and found that university reports of sexual assault increase by 44% during the audit period. This
research provides evidence that while campuses nationwide have historically underreported
instances of sexual misconduct, they have also responded to external federal pressure to address
the issue in order to avoid possible legal ramifications.
The third mechanism, peer emulation, describes the relevant identity and referent
categories that organizations tend to use in their imitation of other organizations (Washington &
Ventresca, 2004). Often times, faced with a lack of knowledge as to how to achieve success,
organizations imitate the practices, structures, and actions of successful peers within their field
(Washington & Ventresca, 2004). Peer emulation is at the forefront of university policy; many
times, institutions of higher education change their policies and practices to better align with
those of successful peer institutions. For example, as Harvard Universitys peer institutions
moved to update their sexual misconduct policies to change the burden of proof standard

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required for a guilty conviction from beyond a reasonable doubt to preponderance of
evidence, Harvard was pressured to do the same and changed its policy to emulate that of its
peers in 2014 (Dobbins, 2012).
As demonstrated, both internal and external factors can influence organizational change
in educational settings. The dominant external factors driving change are government agencies,
courts, and peer institutions, while the internal factors effecting change are far more diverse and
complicated. The university is a highly complex environment comprised of a variety of diverse
key actors with competing interests, as illustrated by Kihnley (2000). After studying the sexual
harassment grievance policies of eight different college campuses, Kihnley (2000) concluded
that universities possess two competing goals: (1) protecting university employees and university
reputation and (2) empowering complainants. These competing goals contribute to the difficulty
of implementing victim-friendly, victim-centered sexual harassment grievance policies. Kihnley
(2000) found that university administrators were inclined to keep information about sexual
harassment cases contained and were reluctant to release such information to the larger campus
community in order to avoid negative publicity. On the other hand, student activists and faculty
involved in sexual assault education and prevention work may be more inclined to release such
information in the interest of empowering complainants and increasing transparency. Thus,
different actors and groups on campus correspond with competing organizational goals.
Kihnleys claims parallel those made by Ottens and Hotelling (2001), who studied sexual
misconduct policy and who posit that, in order for true policy reform to be enacted on college
campuses, every actor and group needs to be involved and invested, including administrators,
faculty, staff, Greek letter organizations, athletes, students, and survivors.

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Another factor that can drive organizational change in higher education is student
activism. Students are an essential component of the university setting, and thus, are in a
powerful position to enact change. In Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher
Education, Arthur (2011) draws on case studies of six colleges and universities in the United
States and focuses on the effect of student activism on the emergence of curricular programs in
womens studies, Asian American studies, and queer studies. Arthurs (2011) research
demonstrates that both external social movements targeting colleges and universities and internal
social movements initiated on college and university campuses by student activists play a major
role in curricular change. These findings set forth a perspective for understanding what it takes
for social movements geared towards colleges and universities to make an impact. The university
is an institution where pockets of individuals with competing interestssuch as student and
faculty activistsmust interact to pursue their own goals. These individuals tend to stand against
university administration and advocate for institutional change, including sexual misconduct
response reform (Pettinicchio, 2012).
These internal and external mechanisms for change exist on college and university
campuses and I found that they can explain why some institutions of higher education have
enacted change with regards to sexual misconduct before and after the distribution of the 2011
Dear Colleague Letter and subsequent federal guidance while others have not.
IV.

RESEARCH PROBLEM

While sexual misconduct has been heavily studied by many scholars, pre-existing
research has yet to compare sexual misconduct policies across universities and to identify the
existence of and provide an explanation of variation in those policies. To fill this gap, this study
examines previous and current sexual misconduct policies of ten universities in the United States

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and identifies underlying factors associated with these policies. Do public schools, which receive
considerably more federal funding than private schools, respond differently to issues of sexual
assault than private schools? Does the prevalence of Greek-letter organizations, which are highrisk for both victimization and perpetration of sexual misconduct (Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss,
& Wechsler, 2004), impact the ways in which institutions address such issues? How, if at all, do
athletics, which often provide a substantial amount of financial gain for colleges and universities,
impact institutional response to issues of sexual misconduct? All of these questions comprise my
larger question: have certain institutional factors impacted the ways in which colleges and
universities have responded to federal pressure to address campus sexual misconduct? If so,
why?
This answer to this question is important because it has vast implications for everyone
impacted by the nations higher education system. Over the past fifteen years, several studies
have come to the conclusion that approximately one in five women will experience sexual
assault during her collegiate career (Cantor et al., 2015; Kilpatrick, Resnick, Ruggiero,
Conoscenti, & McCauley, 2007; Fisher et. al., 2000). By discovering and understanding which
factors, if any, lead institutions to respond to issues of sexual assault differently, we can take the
necessary steps to reduce sexual assault on campuses nationwide and be more accountable to
students around the country.
V.

HYPOTHESES

I hypothesize (H1) that public institutions will have taken more drastic steps to address
the issue of sexual assault than private institutions because of their high dependence on
government funding. Further, I predict (H2) that the prevalence of Greek-letter organizations and
student athletics will have a distinct impact on the ways in which institutions address these

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issues, due to the monetary incentives institutions receive for protecting such organizations, such
as alumni donations (Monks, 2003). A third hypothesis (H3) is that institutions will be pressured
to emulate the policies and practices of their peer institutions for the following reasons: first,
because emulation is easier than original creation; second, to protect their status; and third, to
eliminate the chances of negative comparisons. That being said, however, I also hypothesize
(H4) that more prestigious institutions, such as those in the Ivy League, will address the issue of
sexual assault more vigorously than less prestigious institutions in an attempt to protect their
reputation and appear both more responsive and more accountable. Finally, I hypothesize (H5)
that institutions that have recently been in the national media headlines for a major case of sexual
misconduct will have greater awareness of the issue. I believe this heightened awareness will
have led to a larger base of student and faculty activism, and thus, the implementation of more
changes to address the issue more comprehensively.
VI.

METHODS

This research relied on a case study of ten schools with different institutional profiles
(public v. private, large v. small, residential v. commuter, etc.) to determine whether different
types of schools have responded differently to federal pressure to address sexual misconduct.
The sample of ten was drawn from the published list of 161 colleges and universities that are
currently under investigation by the Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights for their
compliance with Title IX. The ten institutions studied are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Dartmouth College
Morehouse College
Florida State University
Sarah Lawrence College
Spelman College
St. Marys College of Maryland
Texas A&M University
University of Southern California

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9. Vanderbilt University
10. College of William and Mary
The table below provides a clear and detailed glimpse of the institutional factors associated with
each institution studied.

To narrow the sample, I first identified between three and five universities that fit each
institutional factor I wanted to investigate. I then narrowed that list down even further by
identifying universities that fit multiple different institutional factors. For example, I initially
identified Arizona State University, Florida State University, the University of Michigan, and
Stanford University as institutions that receive a large amount of revenue from their athletic
programs. From this list, however, only Florida State University made it into my final sample
because the institution also fit several other institutional factors I wanted to investigate: FSU is a
large, public institution with a non-residential campus and a high prevalence of Greek-letter
organizations. Furthermore, the institution has received a high level of media attention due to a
headline case of sexual misconduct.

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For this study, I originally planned to conduct both a comparative qualitative content
analysis of previous and current university sexual misconduct policies and in-depth interviews
with a key stakeholder at each institution in regards to sexual misconduct prevention, awareness,
and/or response. This plan, however, fell short. Despite multiple attempts to contact potential
interviewees from each institution via phone and email, I was only able to get in contact with and
successfully interview individuals from two institutions (St. Marys College of Maryland and
Vanderbilt University). One week after sending my initial research participation/interview
invitation, I sent a follow-up email to each of my contacts. Five days after sending my follow-up
emails, I attempted to contact these individuals via phone and left voice messages at each
institution. After still not receiving a response from eight of the institutions, I sent another
follow-up email to my initial contact as well as an email to another key member of the
institution. These efforts did not yield any helpful results. I eventually received responses from
my initial contacts at four institutions (Dartmouth College, Sarah Lawrence College, the
University of Southern California, and the College of William and Mary), all of whom
apologized for the delay in response and provided me with the contact information for another
individual on campus. At this point, however, it was too late in my research to schedule and
conduct these interviews.
I originally planned to conduct one-hour interviews with a key member of each
institution, such as the Womens Center Director or Title IX Coordinator, in order to explore the
changes in (1) programmatic efforts on campus, (2) student activism and organization interest,
and (3) campus resources and staff dedicated to addressing sexual assault. I hoped that these
interviews would give me deeper access into the institutions than the policy analysis and reveal

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important and necessary information that is not ordinarily and easily available to the public
(Rubin & Rubin, 2004).
While I hypothesized that it would be slightly difficult to get in contact with individuals
who were willing to speak to me, I did not expect the process to be as arduous and lengthy as it
was. The difficulty I encountered in trying to contact individuals and conduct interviews is very
interesting. An inside source at one of the institutions in my sample revealed that university
employees at this particular institution were instructed by their general counsel not to respond to
any inquiries relating to sexual misconduct. This may be the case for other institutions and may
explain why, despite my numerous and persistent messages, individuals failed to respond.
Although I was unable to conduct as many in-depth interviews as I hoped to, I was able
to retrieve and analyze both past and current sexual misconduct policies from each of the
institutions in my sample. I looked specifically at each schools policies before the 2011 Dear
Colleague Letter and/or before they were placed under federal investigation and then looked at
their policies after. I compared the current policy to the previous policy in order to analyze and
document the changes that were made. Content analysis is useful for documenting change over
time and, because I wanted to achieve an in-depth analysis of changes in policy, qualitative
analysis was the best fit for my study (Neuendorf, 2002).
When analyzing the policies, I coded for sixteen different variables:
1. Investigation/adjudication process
2. Appeals
3. Definition of Consent
4. Definition of Sexual Misconduct
5. Domestic/Dating violence
6. Gender Pronouns
7. Sexual Harassment
8. Incapacitation
9. Interim Accommodations
10. Programming

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11. Resources
12. Retaliation
13. Sanctions
14. Stalking
15. Evidentiary Standard
16. Training
For each of these variables, I created subcategories and formulated a distinct definition. Further, I
recorded and maintained a list of examples for each code.
The major issue I anticipated with qualitative content analysis was reliability, since many
of my variables were difficult to measure objectively. Reliability is the extent to which a
measuring protocol produces the same results on repeated trials (Neuendorf, 2002). In order to
reduce researcher bias and increase reliability, Neuendorf (2002) recommends using multiple
coders to test for reliability, since content analysis is worthless if it can only be conducted once
or by only one single researcher. I did not use multiple coders for this study, however, I did
produce a codebook with very detailed terminology and definitions so that others could replicate
the study if necessary.
I

FINDINGS

Comparative content analysis of current and previous sexual misconduct policies from
ten institutions shows that despite the vastly different institutional profiles of each school in the
sample, overall, each university has responded similarly to campus sexual misconduct since
2011. In general, the current sexual misconduct policies at each institution are much more
expansive and comprehensive than they were prior to the sending of the Dear Colleague Letter
in April 2011 and subsequent federal guidance. For each of the variables coded, I will summarize
the findings.
Investigation/Adjudication Process

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2011 Policy

Current Policy

Faculty, Staff, and/or


Administrator Panel

Morehouse College
Sarah Lawrence College

Sarah Lawrence College


Texas A&M University
University of Southern California (adjudication)
College of William and Mary

Panel Including
Students

Dartmouth College
Florida State University
St. Mary's College of Maryland
Spelman College
University of Southern California
Vanderbilt University
College of William and Mary

Florida State University


Spelman College
St. Mary's College of Maryland

Dartmouth College
Morehouse College
University of Southern California (investigation)
Vanderbilt University

Title IX Office

Not Stated

Texas A&M University

In 2011, seven institutions (Dartmouth College, Florida State University, St. Marys College of
Maryland, Spelman College, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, and
the College of William and Mary) had investigation and/or adjudication bodies composed of both
students and university employees (faculty, staff, and/or administrators). Today, only two
institutions still use an investigation or adjudication body that includes students (Florida State
University and St. Marys College of Maryland). Dartmouth College and Vanderbilt University
have shifted to an investigation and adjudication process that is conducted solely by the Title IX
office; Morehouse College has done the same, after previously having all cases investigated and
adjudicated by the Student Conduct Administrator. At the University of Southern California, the
Title IX office conducts all investigations of sexual misconduct, however, adjudication is carried
out by a panel of university employees. Three institutions (Sarah Lawrence College, Texas A&M
University, and the College of William and Mary) use a panel of only university employees to
carry out investigation and adjudication of sexual misconduct cases. In summary, the majority of
universities no longer use students in their investigation or adjudication processes, and have

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rather shifted to the use of university employees, though the type of university employee (faculty,
staff, administrator) is not always made clear.
Appeals
Every institution describes an appeals process in their sexual misconduct policy; this has
been the case since 2011. Four of the ten institutions (St. Marys College of Maryland,
University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, and the College of William and Mary)
previously had appellate boards that included students, however, students no longer sit on those
boards. Students do serve on the appellate boards at Spelman College and Texas A&M
University. At each institution except Morehouse College appeals are heard by an entity separate
from the investigative and adjudication body, and that has been the case since 2011. At
Morehouse College, however, appeals are heard by the same panel which investigated and/or
adjudicated the original case.
Definition of Consent
In 2011, Florida State University, Spelman College, and the College of William and Mary
did not have any description of consent in their policies while the other seven institutions
described consent in some way. Today, however, all ten institutions address the issue of consent
in their policy. Furthermore, every institution except Morehouse College operates on either an
affirmative consent or effective consent policy. Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and
mutual agreement among all participants to engage in sexual activity through words or actions.
Effective consent informed, freely, and actively given by mutually understandable words or
actions that indicate a willingness to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. While some
institutions have remained constant in their definition, some have switched from affirmative to
effective consent and vice-versa. However, the basis of both affirmative and effective consent are

22
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
very similar and make clear that consent is ongoing, cannot be assumed, cannot be given if
incapacitated, and does not require a no. Further, Morehouse Colleges previous or current
policies do not clearly define consent. Rather, both the previous and current policies state that to
constitute a lack of consent, the acts must be committed either by force, intimidation, or
exploitation of the victims mental incapacity or physical helplessness. However, Morehouse
Collegethe only all-male college in the sampleis the only institution to provide a guide for
how to understand consent. This guide is reproduced below:
Prevention of Sexual Misconduct: For Men, Understanding Yes, No, and Maybe
1. Accept the decision communicated. No means NO! Maybe means NO! Yes
means YES, IF your partner is NOT intoxicated, asleep or handicapped. (Its the
law!)
2. Being turned down IS NOT a rejection of you personally. It IS a refusal to participate in
an action or activity.
3. If you dont want sex, say so! You have rights, too!
4. Dressing sexy or flirting IS NOT automatic permission for sexual intercourse. Do not
confuse friendliness with sexual invitation!
5. Previous sexual intercourse DOES NOT automatically give permission in the current
situation.
6. Avoid excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs; they interfere with clear, effective
communication and/or decision making. (Even one drink may inhibit good decision
making!)

Definition of Sexual Misconduct


In 2011, five institutions (Morehouse College, Spelman College, St. Marys College of
Maryland, Texas A&M University, and the College of William and Mary) employed narrow
definitions of sexual misconduct that included only non-consensual sexual contact/intercourse.
At that time, the remaining five institutions (Dartmouth College, Florida State University, Sarah
Lawrence College, the University of Southern California, and Vanderbilt University) employed
more broad definitions of sexual misconduct that included some combination of the following:
non-consensual sexual contact/intercourse, sexual harassment, stalking, and/or dating/domestic
violence. Every institution, except Florida State University, has since expanded their definition

23
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
of sexual misconduct to include some or all of the following: non-consensual sexual
contact/intercourse, sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic violence, and sexual
exploitation.

2011 Policy
Non-consensual
sexual contact/
intercourse

Sexual
Harassment

Stalking

Dating/
Domestic
Violence

Dartmouth College

Florida State University

Morehouse College

Sarah Lawrence College

Spelman College

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Texas A&M University

University of Southern California

Vanderbilt University

College of William and Mary

Sexual
Exploitation

Current Policy
Non-consensual
sexual contact/
intercourse

Sexual
Harassment

Stalking

Dating/
Domestic
Violence

Dartmouth College

Florida State University

Morehouse College

Sarah Lawrence College

Spelman College

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Texas A&M University

University of Southern California

Vanderbilt University

Sexual
Exploitation

24
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
College of William and Mary

Dating/Domestic Violence
All institutions except Florida State University now make mention of dating/domestic
violence somewhere in their sexual misconduct policies. Dartmouth College and the University
of Southern California included dating/domestic violence in their policy in 2011, while the
remaining seven institutions (Morehouse College, Sarah Lawrence College, Spelman College, St.
Marys College of Maryland, Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University, and the College of
William and Mary) added it after 2011.
Gender Pronouns
Previously, every institution used gender-restrictive pronouns. Today, only Dartmouth
College and Vanderbilt University use gender-neutral pronouns, referring to individuals as
he/she/they or members of the community. The remaining eight institutions continue to use
gender-restrictive pronouns.
Sexual Harassment
While every institution currently makes some mention of sexual harassment in their
sexual misconduct policy, this was not the case in 2011. Previously, while sexual harassment was
included somewhere in the student conduct code as a violation of university policy, at five
institutions (Morehouse College, Spelman College, St. Marys College of Maryland, Texas A&M
University, and the College of William and Mary), it was not included in the same section as
sexual misconduct, sexual assault, etc. Now, however, all ten institutions include sexual
harassment in the same section as other acts of sexual misconduct and consider sexual
harassment a violation of the sexual misconduct policy.
Incapacitation

25
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
Both Spelman College and Morehouse College do not include definitions or explanations
for incapacitation in their current or previous policies. The remaining eight current policies
include definitions and explanations of incapacitation, explicitly stating that incapacitation from
drugs and/or alcohol renders one unable to give consent. Three institutions (Florida State
University, Texas A&M University, and the College of William and Mary) only added this term
to their policy after 2011 while the remaining five institutions (Dartmouth College, Sarah
Lawrence College, St. Marys College of Maryland, the University of Southern California, and
Vanderbilt University) included definitions or explanations of incapacitation in their 2011 policy.
Only Vanderbilt University makes explicitly clear that incapacitation can result from the use of
date rape drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine.
Interim Accommodations
All institutions except Florida State University include lists of interim accommodations
available to both complainants and respondents in cases of sexual misconduct in their current
policy. While Texas A&M University and the University of Southern California have had this
information as part of their policy since 2011, the remaining seven institutions have only recently
added information regarding interim accommodations. The nine institutions that do include
information about interim accommodations available to students impacted by sexual misconduct
list similar accommodations, with the most common accommodations being no-contact orders,
academic leniency, and housing changes. Although Florida State University does not explicitly
mention any interim accommodations available to both complainants and respondents in cases of
sexual misconduct, such accommodations likely do exist at the university.
Programming

26
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
Only five institutions (Sarah Lawrence College, Spelman College, St. Marys College of
Maryland, the University of Southern California, and Vanderbilt University) provide information
about relevant programming and educational initiatives regarding sexual misconduct in their
current policies. Vanderbilt University recently added this information to their policy while the
previously named institutions have included this information listed since 2011. While the
remaining five institutions (Dartmouth College, Florida State University, Morehouse College,
Texas A&M University, and the College of William and Mary) do not make explicit mention of
relevant programming and educational initiatives in their policies, such programming likely does
exist on some level and may be described elsewhere.
Resources
Florida State University is the only institution that still does not make any mention of
resources available to individuals impacted by sexual misconduct. While the College of William
and Mary did not include any information about resources in 2011, the institution has since
added a wealth of information to their policy. All institutions (except Florida State University)
have greatly increased the number of resources mentioned in their policy as well as the variety of
resources available to students. While there is no single type of resource that every institution
makes mention of, most schools do provide students with information for medical services,
counseling services, law enforcement, off-campus/community resources, and both private and
confidential resources. The institutions offering the least resource information are (1) Florida
State University, (2) Dartmouth College, and (3) Texas A&M University, Florida State
University offering the least comprehensive list of resources. The institutions with the most
comprehensive resource information are (1) Sarah Lawrence College, (2) Vanderbilt University,

27
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
and (3) St. Marys College of Maryland, with Sarah Lawrence College offering the most
comprehensive list of resources..

Retaliation
Every institution except Florida State University currently makes some mention of the
prohibition of retaliation under the sexual misconduct policy. While Dartmouth College, St.
Marys College of Maryland, and the College of William and Mary did not make any mention of
retaliation in 2011, today, they explicitly state that retaliation will be met with disciplinary action
in the form of sanctions; three additional institutions (Sarah Lawrence College, Texas A&M
University, and Vanderbilt University) now also state that any form of retaliation will be
sanctioned. While the remaining three institutions (Morehouse College, Spelman College, and
the University of Southern California) state that retaliation is unacceptable, they make no
mention of any sanctions that will be imposed.
Sanctions
In 2011, four institutions (Florida State University, Spelman College, Texas A&M
University, and the College of William and Mary) did not make sanctions for cases of sexual
misconduct clear in their policy. Today, Florida State University and Texas A&M University still
do not provide such information. Three institutions (Dartmouth College, Morehouse College, and
the University of Southern California) are very vague in their language about sanctioning, stating
that anything from a warning to expulsion is possible. Alternatively, the remaining five
institutions (Sarah Lawrence College, Spelman College, St. Marys College of Maryland,
Vanderbilt University, and the College of William and Mary) have the most severe sanctions in
place, with a minimum penalty of probation for students found responsible of violating the

28
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
sexual misconduct policy. Most institutions now also include the possibility of restitution,
participation in educational programs/training, counseling, and/or service as part of an
individuals sanction.
Stalking
While stalking may not be included in their definition of sexual misconduct, every
institution now mentions stalking somewhere in their student conduct code. Although three
institutions (Sarah Lawrence College, Spelman College, and St. Marys College of Maryland)
only added stalking to their policy after 2011, the remaining seven institutions (Dartmouth
College, Florida State University, Morehouse College, Texas A&M University, the University of
Southern California, Vanderbilt University, and the College of William and Mary) have
recognized stalking as a violation of the student conduct code since 2011.
Evidentiary Standard
In 2011, seven institutions (Dartmouth College, Florida State University, Sarah Lawrence
College, St. Marys College of Maryland, Texas A&M University, the University of Southern
California, and Vanderbilt University) used an evidentiary standard of preponderance. At this
time, the College of William and Mary was the only institution in the sample to use clear and
convincing as their evidentiary standard while Morehouse College and Spelman College made
no mention of the evidentiary standard used in disciplinary determinations; since that time, all
three institutions have shifted to a standard of preponderance. Today, all schools use a
preponderance of the evidence standard.
Training
Only four institutions (Dartmouth College, Morehouse College, St. Marys College of
Maryland, and Vanderbilt University) currently make mention of any training afforded to or

29
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
required by individuals responsible for investigating and/or adjudicating cases of sexual
misconduct. In 2011, the only institution to describe make mention of training in their policy was
Sarah Lawrence College.
VIII. DISCUSSION
I chose to study several different factors which I hypothesized would influence university
responses to sexual misconduct. These factors included:
1. Type of school (public v. private)
2. Size of student population (large, medium, small)
3. Strength of athletic program (D1, D2, D3, none)
4. Greek Life (prevalent, some, none)
5. Demographics of student body (PWI v. HBCU)
6. Location of campus (urban v. rural)
7. Type of campus (residential v. commuter)
8. Headline case
9. Elite status (USNWR top 50 rank)
10. Presence of a gender studies major
Interestingly enough, the factors I hypothesized would matter to university response did not
actually matter. What I found was a version of contagion among university responses, dictated
largely by guidelines set forth by the federal government, specifically in the April 2011 Dear
Colleague Letter and the 2014 First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students
from Sexual Assault.
The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) reminded colleges and universities nationwide of
their obligations under Title IX and also set forth specific guidelines regarding sexual
misconduct policy and response. This letter states that if a school knows or reasonable should
know about sexual misconduct that creates a hostile environment, the school should take
immediate action to address the issue. Furthermore, the school should take steps to protect the
student who was assaulted from further assault or from retaliation from the perpetrator. The DCL
explicitly states that schools should make clear that Title IX prohibits retaliation and that

30
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
administrators will take strong action against retaliation, which explains why between 2011 and
2015, nine of the ten institutions in the sample state explicit policies against retaliation.
The DCL and the Report of the White House Task Force also recommend that all schools
provide an appeals process, which all ten institutions do. Furthermore, both documents state that
all individuals involved in investigating and adjudicating Title IX matters must have traumainformed training and experience in handling complaints of sexual misconduct and also state that
the extent and type of such training should be shared with the university community. This
recommendation may explain why four institutions have chosen to include information about the
training afforded to or required by individuals investigating and/or adjudicating cases of sexual
misconduct. Further, the Report of the White House Task Force states that the single
investigator model, where a trained investigator or investigators interview the complainant and
alleged perpetrator, gather all evidence, interview witnesses, and determine a finding, has been
very successful thus far. This guideline may explain why almost every institution has shifted
away from students being involved in the investigation and adjudication processes of sexual
misconduct cases. Instead, the majority of schools are now using trained Title IX Coordinators,
faculty, staff, and administrators to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct cases.
Furthermore, the Dear Colleague Letter recommends that all schools implement
preventive education programs and make victim resources available and known to students. The
DCL goes on to say that schools should develop specific materials that include the schools
sexual misconduct policies, procedures, and resources in their student handbooks. In these
materials, schools should include the resources students can take advantage of if they are
impacted by sexual misconduct. This could explain the vast expansion of listed resources in the
2015 policies compared to the 2011 policies at the schools studied. The 2014 Report of the White

31
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
House Task Force gives further guidance, stating that schools should provide confidential
resources for students and make it clear who on campus can maintain confidentiality and who
cannot; eight of the ten institutions now provide information on both private and confidential
resources in their policy. In addition to providing both confidential and private resources for
students, the Report of the White House also recommends that off-campus and community
resources are made known to students, including local law enforcement, local rape crisis centers,
etc.; seven of the ten institutions provide information about off-campus and community resources
in their current policy. While only five of the ten institutions provide information about the
programming available on campus in regards to sexual misconduct prevention and awareness,
the Report of the White House clearly states that federal law requires schools to provide this type
of programming to students and also recommends that policies outline the type and frequency of
on-campus prevention and education programming and training.
Additionally, the DCL reminds universities that Title IX requires schools to take interim
measures to protect the complainant, including no-contact orders, housing changes, and
academic accommodations. Only two of the ten institutions included information about interim
accommodations in their 2011 policy. Since that time, however, seven institutions have joined
them in providing such information.
The Report of the White House Task Force states that all sexual misconduct policies must
clearly define consent and incapacitation, and provides readers with sample language of an
effective/affirmative consent policy. This likely explains why every institution, barring Florida
State University, now uses either an affirmative or effective consent policy and why eight of the
ten institutions include a thorough explanation of incapacitation and its implications for consent.

32
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
Finally, both the DCL and the Report of the White House Task Force require that the
preponderance-of-the-evidence standard be used in any Title IX proceedings, including hearings.
All ten institutions currently use this evidentiary standard, and this guideline may explain why
the College of William and Mary switched from using the clear-and-convincing-evidence
standard in 2011 to the current preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. There were no
recommendations in either the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter or The First Report of the White
House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault that schools generally did not adopt.
The university response with regard to each of these ten variables can be explained
through Washington and Ventrescas (2004) research. As discussed previously, Washington and
Ventresca (2004) identify three mechanisms that drive organizational change: dominant logic
consistency, rationalized external charters, and peer emulation. While dominant logic consistency
is irrelevant to these findings, rationalized external charters and peer emulation can explain why
universities have responded in such similar ways, despite their vastly different institutional
profiles.
Rationalized external charters describes the role that external pressure outside an
organization can have in effecting change. In this case, the federal government has put
substantial pressure on institutions of higher education to respond to the issue of sexual
misconduct. The guidance set forth in the Dear Colleague Letter and in the Report of the White
House Task Force provided external pressure for change. Moreover, they gave specific, detailed
guidelines regarding the desired result of those changes. The findings show that for all variables
both studied and discussed in the two federal government documents, the majority of universities
responded in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the government.

33
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
For the six variables not discussed in either the DCL and the Report of the White House
Task Force (definition of sexual misconduct, dating/domestic violence, gender pronouns, sexual
harassment, sanctions, and stalking) it is interesting that university responses still appear to
follow a contagion pattern. I argue that this can be attributed to peer emulation, which describes
the relevant identity and referent categories that organizations tend to use in their imitation of
other organizations (Washington & Ventresca, 2004). This would also help explain why some
schools, such as Morehouse College and Spelman Collegewhich are considered to be brothersister institutionslook especially similar. Universities nationwide are constantly in
competition and conversation and many times, these institutions change their policies and
practices to better align with successful peer institutions. This tendency to emulate ones peers
can explain why most institutions nationwide have chosen to use more expansive definitions of
sexual misconduct; include and define stalking, dating/domestic violence, and sexual harassment
in their policies; and also use similar language about sanctioning, despite the fact that such
guidance was not given in any federal documents.
Florida State University is a clear outlier in regards to almost every variable studied.
While there is no single factor that sets Florida State University apart from the other institutions
in the sample and thus, may explain why Florida State University is so out of line with its peer
institutions, I have a hypothesis about why the institution has adopted so few recommendations
for addressing campus sexual misconduct. Florida State University has been the focus of several
national sexual misconduct media stories over the past three years. Although individuals may
believe that this constant attention on the University would cause the institution to take drastic
steps to ease the publics worry about their handling of sexual misconduct, I argue the opposite. I
hypothesize that the constant national media attention placed on Florida State University has

34
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
caused the workload of university staff dedicated to issues of sexual misconduct to greatly
increase, making these employees less likely to focus on external image and more likely to focus
on the internal status of affairs within the University. Furthermore, I suspect that the University is
highly focused on addressing the media frenzy surrounding the institution and less focused on
ensuring that their policies and other publicly available documents are in line with those of peer
institutions.
I

CONCLUSION

This study was guided by a theoretical framework exploring organizational change in


higher education. The findings contribute to this field of study by showing just how influential
external pressure and peer emulation are in effecting change within institutions of higher
education.
While my findings indicate that external factorsin this case, federal pressure and peer
emulationplay an integral role in policy change within the university setting, this study was
limited by the fact that it only explored ten institutions of higher education out of the 161 that are
currently under investigation and the 2,474 four-year institutions that exist in the country.
Further, my inability to arrange and conduct interviews with a key member of each institution
also limited the breadth of this study.
Future research should aim to examine a larger sample of institutions in order to increase
the generalizability of results. Further, scholars interested in topics surrounding campus sexual
misconduct should be aware of the immense difficulty in collecting information pertaining to this
issue, whether it be through policy, related documents, or interviews. However, such scholars
should not be discouraged from pursuing this work, as their contributions will add valuable
insight to the field of sociology.

35
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES
While the legal standards, policies, and federal guidance discussed have catalyzed reform
with regards to sexual misconduct on college campuses, until deeper structural and cultural
inequalities are addressed in society, legal reforms may improve aspects of womens lives, but
will not eliminate violence against women. Federal pressure has proven essential to addressing
this issue, but the need for comprehensive reform of institutional structures and culture change in
order to successfully combat campus sexual misconduct cannot be overstated.

36
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES

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APPENDIX A: INTERVIEW GUIDE


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

Can you describe how your position relates to sexual assault prevention and/or response on
your campus?
What was your campus climate like in regards to sexual assault before the Dear Colleague
Letter was sent and/or before your institution was placed under investigation for Title IX
compliance?
What was your institutions response to being investigated by the Department of Education
for Title IX compliance?
Have you seen any changes since that time in regards to student awareness? Please explain.
Have you seen any changes since that time in regards to student activism? Please explain.
Have you seen any changes since that time in regards to faculty activism? Please explain.
Have you seen any changes since that time in regards to education efforts? Please explain.
What, if any, programming changes have occurred on campus?
What have been the most successful changes? Please elaborate.
Have there been any changes that you believe to have been unsuccessful? Please elaborate.
In your opinion, do you think any specific factors unique to your institution have had an
effect on the way your institution has responded?
What do you believe is the biggest barrier your institution still faces in effectively
addressing this issue?
Did different groups or constituencies (administrators, students, activists, etc.) exist on
campus in terms of response or demands for change?
Is there anything else I ought to know that I have not asked?

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FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES

APPENDIX B: INITIAL RECRUITMENT EMAIL


Subject: Research Participation Invitation (Campus Sexual Misconduct)
Dear _____________,
This email message is an approved request for participation in research that has been approved or
declared exempt by the Vanderbilt University Institutional Review Board (IRB).
My name is Asheeka Desai and I am a fourth-year student at Vanderbilt University. I am
conducting a research study that examines whether certain institutional factors impact the ways
in which colleges and universities respond to the issue of campus sexual assault. I am writing to
ask if you, a key stakeholder at your institution in regards to sexual misconduct, are willing to
participate in a one-hour in-depth interview about the campus climate in regards to sexual
misconduct at your institution. Participation is voluntary and your responses will be kept
anonymous.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at
asheeka.desai@vanderbilt.edu or by phone at (864)-349-9488.
I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Asheeka Desai
Vanderbilt University
--Asheeka Desai
Sociology, Communication Studies
Vanderbilt University Class of 2016

42
FACTORS INFLUENCING UNIVERSITY RESPONSES

APPENDIX C: FOLLOW-UP RECRUITMENT EMAIL


Subject: Follow-up: Research Participation Invitation (Campus Sexual Misconduct)
Dear _____________,
I am following up to ask whether you are willing to participate in a one-hour interview about the
campus climate around sexual misconduct at your institution. If not, is there another person at
your institution whom you can refer me to?
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Thank you,
Asheeka Desai
(864)-349-9488
--Asheeka Desai
Sociology, Communication Studies
Vanderbilt University Class of 2016