SPUR 2019: The History, Present, & Future of Title IX’s Role in Addressing Sexual Misconduct on University Campuses


This project examines the association between Title IX and sexual misconduct in four contexts.

  1. It looks at arguments made in court cases (1972-pesent) that use Title IX to protect against sexual misconduct.
  2. It analyzes Office of Civil Rights (OCR) documents and investigations to identify how the OCR sets the parameters of Title IX's role in protecting against sexual misconduct, parameters that expanded significantly 2011-2016 but have since diminished and are now in limbo.
  3. It explores strategies various universities have used, are using, and are planning to use to address sexual misconduct during this time of rapid change, in part by interviewing Title IX coordinators, and
  4. It looks at both mainstream and feminist media coverage of Title IX and sexual misconduct, including, for example, news programs, humor on YouTube, and social media activism.

The overall goals of this project are

  1. to develop a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of Title IX's ability to protect against sexual misconduct,
  2. to understand how decades of feminist activism have influenced judicial, Federal, and educational policy and practices, as well as media representations and public opinion, and
  3. to use history, analysis, and interviews to identify best practices going forward.

This project is particularly important currently both because sexual misconduct has been highly visible since the #MeToo movement began, as well as because Title IX rules are currently in transition. By identifying best practices based on careful analysis, precedent, and the day to day experiences of Title IX coordinators, this project has the potential to have a significant impact as we all grapple with the on-going changes in Title IX.

Student Role

You will choose which aspect(s) of this large, multi-part project is/are most interesting to you. I.e., you might focus your attention on court cases, OCR documents, Title IX and university practices, or media representations, or you might look at a combination of these. In addition, if over the course of the summer you find that there is yet another area of investigation that you think the project should pursue, we will work together to incorporate that area into your work. Regardless of your focus, your day to day activities will include one or more of the following:

  1. Collection of Documents and Resources. E.g., you might study the OCR website to identify every document in which the words "sexual misconduct" appear. And/or, you might search university websites to identify the ways in which they address sexual misconduct, and you might reach out to and interview Title IX coordinators or others who work in the area at these campuses.
  2. Bibliography Building. You will collect published scholarship related to the area(s) of the project in which you are working. E.g., you might collect articles in which legal scholars explain the association between Title IX and sexual misconduct.
  3. Analysis. You will use appropriate methods of analysis for the documents, resources, and bibliography you have collected. E.g., you might identify the ways media use truth claims, empathy, judgement, humor, or other types of representation to tell stories about sexual misconduct.
  4. Summary/Writing/Presentation. At the end of the summer you will develop an argument about Title IX and sexual misconduct based on the research you have done, and you will present that argument at the Summer Symposium in a format that is meaningful for you

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

Outcome and Benefits this Summer and as an Undergraduate: This project will provide you with an opportunity to develop interdisciplinary humanities, social science, law, education, media, and gender studies research skills. Throughout the summer, we will identify the research skills you already have, as well as research skills you would like to develop. From there, I will provide you with the information and practice you need to deepen your existing skills and to acquire many more skills. Overall, the research you do this summer will give you an opportunity to develop a project that is meaningful to you, and perhaps one that you will chose to continue working on throughout your time as an undergraduate. If it is of interest to you, we may choose to co-author a publication or conference paper together based on our summer work.

Outcome and Benefits into the Future: If you are considering advanced education and/or a career in a variety of fields—such as law, education, public policy, social activism and advocacy, or media—this project will allow you to acquire experience and skills that will solidify your expertise, help you decide which is the right path for you, and ultimately increase your chance of success getting into graduate school/law school or getting a job.

Sarah Projansky

Film & Media Arts
College of Fine Arts
Division of Gender Studies
School for Cultural & Social Transformation

In general, my approach to mentoring is to meet students where they are, make clear to them that I not only believe but also know that they can achieve even more than they expect of themselves and at the highest level, and then provide them with the resources they need to prove me right. Having advised dozens of undergraduate senior thesis projects, I have found this approach to be highly successful. This includes talking with students at length in order to help them understand what their own research interests are and, more importantly, why those interests matter to them; collaborating with students on problem-solving when they get stuck in their research; and providing detailed feedback on their work with the goal of strengthening and deepening their findings. I also work with students to identify the kind of collaboration and interaction that works best for them, adjusting my approach as needed. I provide guidance and make my own expectations very clear, but I always do so with the goal of furthering the students' goals and strengthening their research abilities. More specifically, this summer, I assume that you and I will meet once or twice per week in order to discuss the progress you are making, to help problem-solve and redirect as needed, and to provide any necessary guidance. That said, if you find that you work better with either more or fewer meetings, we will adjust our meeting schedule accordingly. Your schedule will be flexible within the program parameters of 35-40 hours of work per week (including program activities).