Added: October 3, 2015 – Last updated: October 3, 2015


Author: Laura Suzanne Johnson

Title: Gender Discrimination and Title IX Implementation

Subtitle: Lessons from the Office for Civil Rights Resolution Letters 1997-2011

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Kentucky

Advisor: Jane Jensen

Year: 2015

Pages: ix + 154pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century, 21st Century | American History: U.S. History | Prosecution: Laws; Types: Sexual Harassment


Link: UKnowledge: Digital Collection of the University of Kentucky (Free Access)



»Gender discrimination, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault and inequitable treatment has long been considered a prominent issue on higher education campuses and is regulated under the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, commonly known as Title IX. Title IX is enforced by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) who responds to gender discrimination complaints on campus through investigations resulting in what are called OCR Resolution Letters. These letters define numerous policies and procedures Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) must put in place pertaining to the prevention of gender discrimination. This qualitative study looks specifically at the ways that gender discrimination on campuses of higher education was defined by the OCR from 1997-2011. The study explores the research questions (1) How have the types of conduct determined to be gender discrimination changed over time? (2) How have expectations of IHE responsibilities for gender discrimination issues changed over time? and (3) What gender discrimination issues have surfaced as priorities in the implementation of Title IX, as reflected in OCR resolution letters?
Analysis of the letters using a social construction framework demonstrates that while the definitions of specific types of gender discrimination remained constant, the context in which they occur and the types of behaviors determined to be gender discrimination have both expanded in response to societal attitudes. The OCR tends to take the stance of being an ally vs. a punishing body when aiding IHEs in implementing Title IX; however IHE’s required investment in addressing the problem in both response and preventive measures has grown. Finally, OCR Resolution letters demonstrate that student on student interactions have been less common than faculty on student interactions. Implications for IHE practices and future research are discussed.« (Source: Thesis)


  Acknowledgements (p. iii)
  List of Tables (p. v)
  Chapter One: Introduction (p. 1)
    Introduction (p. 1)
    Background (p. 3)
    Statement of the problem (p. 5)
    Purpose of the study (p. 6)
    Theoretical framework (p. 7)
      Social Construction Theory (p. 7)
    Research design (p. 10)
    Research questions (p. 12)
    Significance of the study (p. 13)
  Chapter Two: Literature Review (p. 14)
    Introduction (p. 14)
    The construction of sexual misconduct (p. 14)
    The 1960s and 1970s: The social and political climates that set the scene for Title IX (p. 16)
      Civil rights and feminist movements (p. 16)
      Victim's rights movement (p. 17)
      Rape reform movement (p. 20)
    The 1970s: The creation and implementation of Title IX (p. 21)
      Activists and key players (p. 21)
      The passing of Title IX (p. 24)
      Implementing Title IX (p. 25)
    The 1980s: Defining the reach of Title IX (p. 27)
    Title IX focal points and applications identified by societal interest (p. 30)
      The 1970s: The emergence of an athletic focus (p. 30)
        Societal change (p. 30)
        Contention (p. 31)
        Legislation (p. 32)
      The 1980s: Title IX and the emergence of a sexual harassment focus (p. 33)
        Redefining sexual harassment (p. 33)
        Court cases that defined Title IX's application to sexual harassment (p. 34)
    OCR Title IX policy guidance (p. 35)
      1997 OCR guidance (p. 37)
        Societal influence (p. 38)
        What the 1997 guidance said (p. 38)
      2001 OCR guidance (p. 40)
        Legal influences and landmark cases (p. 41)
        What the 2001 guidance said (p. 43)
      2011 OCR guidance: The Dear Colleague Letter (p. 45)
        Societal influences (p. 45)
        Political influences (p. 46)
        Landmark cases (p. 47)
        What the Dear Colleague Letter says (p. 49)
    Conclusion (p. 52)
  Chapter Three: Methodology (p. 53)
    Introduction (p. 53)
    Problem and purposes overview (p. 53)
    Methodology (p. 54)
    Step 1: Understanding the data (p. 56)
      Data set characteristics (p. 56)
    Step 2: Uploading the data to NVIVO (p. 59)
    Step 3: Coding (p. 59)
    Step 4: Establishing a code analysis structure (p. 61)
      Categorical grouping of codes (p. 61)
      OCR standards (p. 61)
        Compliance reviews (p. 63)
        Nature of the incident (p. 64)
        Other issues cited (p. 67)
      Summary overview of the coding process (p. 69)
    Step 5: Content analysis (p. 70)
      Socio-political timeline (p. 74)
      Tables (p. 73)
    Step 6: Identifying themes (p. 74)
      Trustworthiness (p. 77)
      Summary (p. 79)
    Tables (p. 80)
      Table 2.1: Summary overview (p. 80)
      Table 2.2: Compliance review phase 2 (p. 84)
      Table 2.3: Compliance review phase 3 (p. 84)
      Table 2.4: Nature of the incident phase 2 (p. 85)
      Table 2.5: Nature of the incident phase 3 (p. 86)
      Table 2.6: Nature of the incident phase 4 (p. 86)
      Table 2.7: Nature of the incident phase 5 (p. 87)
      Table 2.8: Other issues cited phase 2 (p. 88)
      Table 2.9: Other issues cited phase 3 (p. 89)
      Table 2.10: Other issues cited phase 4 (p. 89)
      Table 2.11: Other issues cited phase 5 (p. 90)
  Chapter Four: Analysis and Interpretations (p. 91)
    Introduction (p. 91)
    Theme one: Context (p. 91)
      Sexual harassment (p. 93)
      Hostile environment (p. 95)
      Inequitable treatment (p. 99)
      Off-campus incidents (p. 101)
      Findings from context theme (p. 102)
    Theme two: Priorities (p. 102)
      Sexual harassment (p. 103)
      Sexual assault (p. 105)
      Hostile environment (p. 105)
      Academic fairness (p. 107)
      Male reports (p. 108)
      Touching (p. 108)
      Inequitable treatment (p. 109)
      Findings from priorities theme (p. 109)
    Theme three: Response (p. 110)
      Notice (p. 110)
      Policies and procedures (p. 112)
      Inadequate responses and invetigations (p. 114)
      Retaliation (p. 116)
      Findings from response theme (p. 118)
    Theme four: Power (p. 119)
      Compliance reviews (p. 119)
      Investigating complaints (p. 121)
      Imposing sanctions (p. 123)
      Finding from power theme (p. 128)
      Summary (p. 128)
  Chapter Five: Findings and Implications (p. 130)
    Introduction (p. 130)
    Summary of study (p. 130)
    Findings (p. 131)
      Question 1: How have the types of conduct determined to be gender discrimination changed over time? (p. 131)
      Question 2: How have expectations of IHE responsibilites for gender discrimination issues changed over time? (p. 132)
      Question 3: What gender discrimination issues have surfaced as priorities in the implementation of Title IX, as reflected in OCR resolution letters? (p. 134)
    Implications (p. 136)
      Case study (p. 138)
    Future research (p. 141)
    Summary (p. 143)
  Appendices (p. 145)
    Appendix A: Socio-political timeline (p. 145)
  References (p. 148)
  Vita (p. 154)

Wikipedia: Sexual harassment, Title IX