Title IX Implementation in the Great Lakes College Association : A Policy and Narrative Analysis
Kowey, Emily Jennifer Zillinsky
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What is Title IX? This question is one that many struggle to answer as the definition has encompassed many things over time. When asked, a majority of people are split between sports or sexual assault as the first thing that comes to mind. While both of these answers are correct, Title IX as a policy of gender discrimination is broadly misunderstood and therefore underutilized. As a policy of gender discrimination, Title IX has the potential to be a space for survivors, students, faculty, advocates, and entire campuses to see the power that integration of policy, education, processes, and programming can have. Title IX is a unique federal policy in the ways that it allows for liberal interpretation and implementation strategies, a space for responsive and preventative approaches to address, eliminate and educate on gender discrimination and sexual violence. However, it is within this open interpretation that Title IX can in fact prove to be unsupportive of survivors and ultimately prove insufficient at developing a campus consciousness and movement to end sexual assault, violence, and gender discrimination. The explicit inclusion of sexual assault and harassment is new to the Title IX policy, included six years ago with the 2011 release of the Dear Colleague letter. With this inclusion, Title IX on college campuses drastically changed, as did campus responses to sexual harassment and gender discrimination of all types. The required position of a Title IX coordinator, mandatory reporters, reporting processes and policy, all compounds to create a culture of intense oversight - with campuses almost over complying in an effort to ensure that they had "all the boxes" checked. This is the focal point of the research. understanding the ways in which Title IX implementation on college campuses is a balance between under and over compliance. The addition of sexual assault under Title IX has resulted in the mandatory introduction of programing and development of the Title IX coordinator position, meant to educate and inform their campus communities about mandatory reporting, behaviors that are considered violations under Title IX, as well as definitions of consent, sexual assault and misconduct, and stalking. This is combines with the development of processes for reporting that are straightforward, clearly outlines, anti-rape, and supportive of all survivors. This policy change has been interpreted in many different ways across educational institutions, some choosing to take a conservative approach while others have been more liberal. Due to the inconsistency with implementation, the experiences of survivors reporting has been varied and many have voiced the necessity of a more blanket approach that all school must comply with. However, it is often necessary to have a more localized approach as campus communities are unique cohorts that have a variety of different environments, institutional and educational designs, budgets, and staff. Little research on Title IX has been done since the inclusion of the Dear Colleague letter in 2011 , and there is no research on Title IX implementation at small liberal arts colleges in particular. This inadequate amount of research became the inspiration for this project and the focal point. The Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) provided a sample of schools that were overall consistent in size, location, composition, religious affiliation, educational style and mission, as well as similar extracurriculars (sports, clubs, etc). These schools were the perfect cohort to investigate how implementation of this federal policy varied even amongst schools that were compositionally and statistically similar. Besides an analysis a federal policy as well as the developed policy and procedures addressing Title IX, this project also aimed to give a voice to those that were directly impacted by the policy - the students, administrators, faculty, and staff. Narratives became the theme and focus of this research, how can policy analysis itself be a type of narrative as well as understanding the ways that this is not a complete narrative without understanding the impact of said policy. To create a holistic look at the effects of Title IX implementation in the GLCA you had to examine its effects on the individuals on campus, from administrations to coordinators to students to survivors. These voices served to define a narrative that spoke to themes beyond just sexual violence, sexual harassment. and gender discrimination. It was able to highlight the age range of those who are affected, how power dynamics play a major role in reporting, the experiences of first generation and undocumented students and survivors, how being LGBTQIA students are not provided adequate education about consent in their relationships but also additional protections offered to them under Title IX (OCR, Dear Colleague, May 2016). This project aimed to understand these things: 1. How has the addition of sexual assault/misconduct and interpersonal violence under federal Title IX policy altered the experience of survivors who choose to report? 2. Has implementation encouraged a broader dialogue and programing around sexual and relationship violence? 3. How can survivor, student, and campus professional narratives pair with policy analysis at the federal and institutional level to create expansive narratives? 4. Can these narratives offer or inform the development of best practices for Title IX implementation at small private liberal arts colleges part of the Great Lakes College Association? At the start of this project this was expected: Careful examination of the ways that institutions within the Great Lakes College Association have interpreted the discourse on rape and sexual assault is evident through their creation of policy, judicial structures, and programing. Policy analysis at the federal and institutional levels paired with interviews with administrators and survivors highlights the ways that Title IX has been effective but also ineffective at supporting survivors of sexual assault who wish to report and overall promoting an anti-rape culture across higher education. This hypothesis did prove to be true and objectives were met, as this project was able identify the limits of Title IX as a legal avenue of combating sexual assault by examining the language on consent and the influences of the discourse of sexual assault and rape. The limits of this policy were tested by examining the ways that campuses have translated, interpreted, and unpacked this policy and created judicial based systems of reporting and programing on their individual campuses. However, this project did more than highlight the highlights and areas for improvement that the policies on each institution, but the narratives developed spoke to the holistic intersectional approach of policy, education, resources, and process that would serve to benefit all individuals and create a collective campus culture to respond and prevent sexual violence, assault, harassment, and gender discrimination.