Journey to Compliance: Institutional Response to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter to Address Campus Sexual Violence
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), a significant guidance document, to address student on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence. Sexual violence continues to be a problem facing colleges and universities, and institutions that do not respond appropriately to reports can result in severe outcomes for reporting parties, responding parties, and institutions. The purpose of this study was to examine institutional compliance and response to student-on student sexual violence using the regulations set forth by the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. A sequential, mixed-methods design guided the researcher’s data collection and analysis process. The participants, Title IX coordinators at colleges and universities in the United States, were solicited utilizing a sequential QUAN→qual sampling technique. Data were collected using an online self assessment tool, semistructured, open-ended phone interviews, and a review of relevant documents. The researcher reviewed the findings of this study utilizing the lens of Strange and Banning’s (2001) Environmental Theory. Four deductive themes were derived from the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter: proactive efforts (noneducational), victim support services, educational measures and services, and incident investigation and judicial proceedings. An additional five themes emerged from the data used to describe Title IX coordinator experiences implementing Title IX on campus: limited resources, relationship with campus partners, challenges implementing Title IX training and regulations, and limited support for Title IX coordinator position. The researcher concluded the Title IX coordinators at the participating institutions appeared to have put forth a good faith effort to implement policies and procedures, support services, and training and education initiatives to ensure safe campus environments with reduced incidents of sexual violence. Recommendations for further study included examine the perceptions of students to assess their perceptions of institutional efforts related to sexual violence response on their campus; explore the experiences of other individuals responsible for responding to sexual violence on campus; and examine if the rescinsion of the 2011 DCL and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence has impacted continued efforts at the participating institutions.
Nunn, Melissa Marie