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University Responses to Sexual Assault on Campus

Project Description:

Colleges and universities are experiencing new pressure to prevent sexual violence and to respond to its occurrence more effectively. In 2011 the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights indicated that it may withhold federal funds from schools that cannot create an “educational environment free from discrimination,” which includes freedom from sexual violence. In response universities and colleges across the country reevaluated and reformulated their policies and practices around campus sexual misconduct. In 2017, The OCR rescinded aforementioned guidance, issuing conflicting recommendations and announcing a new Notice and Comment period would occur to develop new policy guidance for schools. Further, the #MeToo movement has unearthed disastrous scandals around sexual misconduct at major higher education institutions. This has launched a new era of uncertainty for schools trying to respond to this issue. An overarching aim of our project is to document what changes are occurring, where, to what extent, and why?

Undergraduate student researchers will help collect documents (Annual Security Reports, Sexual Misconduct Policies, and Student Handbooks) to understand how universities and colleges are responding to this ambiguous and contentious policy environment. Additionally, students will aid in coding media coverage of campus sexual assault cases, activism, and institutional response.

Over the course of the fall semester, five undergraduate student researchers will collect documents from the websites of approximately 400 U.S. colleges and universities. Your efforts will help us better understand the terrain of policies and practices around campus sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct. Students will also help pilot test data collection instruments to understand how school adjudicate sexual assault. Three students will work closely with graduate student researchers to find campus newspapers for our sample and identify whether they have searchable archives. Students will also aid in the design and testing of coding protocols for newspaper data and data collection on Title IX student activism.

Note: We are studying the university efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. This is NOT a project on undergraduate sexual cultures or on individual student experiences with sexual violence. Our perspective here is analytical rather than oriented toward advocacy. While this project may eventually have policy implications, our central interest is in how universities navigate a complex legal environment.

Student Researcher Tasks and Responsibilities:

The major goal for Fall 2018 is to collect relevant documents about colleges and universities’ responses to sexual assault (approximately 400 schools). You will search the websites of colleges and university for the documents we need.
The second goal is to test and refine a new instrument to code sexual misconduct adjudication procedures Our research team is using Qualtrics to document university provision of relevant information and resources. Qualtrics is a private research software company through which we have designed surveys specific to our project. Undergraduate students are responsible for completing surveys for each school as accurately, thoroughly, and efficiently as possible. Graduate student supervisors will oversee undergraduates’ data collection and will later organize survey results.
Each Qualtrics survey is designed to guide you through a search process for a given school. It includes detailed instructions on how to find and code data. A Codebook will help you resolve tricky issues and will evolve as the group’s work evolves.
The third goal is to begin collecting media coverage and coming up with possible codes to measure external pressures.

Project Requirements:

- Attend Research Team and Project Meetings.
- Complete PEERRS Certification.
- Respond to email within 24 hours.
- Commit to regular weekly hours.
- Make every effort to input accurate and high-quality data, following instructions.

- When in doubt about how to code something, ask your graduate student supervisor. There will be many cases where things are confusing. The research team may struggle to figure out how to resolve your question. We will be trying to improve the project design over the course of the semester. Your questions, confusions, suggestions, and feedback are critical to this process.

- Let your supervisor know about any problems that come up during the semester integrating this research project with the rest of your life (e.g. illnesses, job interviews, etc.).

- Make a reasonable effort to help your supervisor achieve the goal of completing your data collection project by the end of the semester.

- Submit Progress Reports as requested by your graduate student supervisor. Meet with your supervisor to discuss your performance.
-Submit Weekly Check-Ins by end-of-day Friday during the semester to track your hours worked throughout the week, and the number of surveys you completed.

Minimum Qualifications:

- Interest in sociology, particularly organizations, law, social movements, gender, sexuality

- Skill locating material on the Internet

- Strong verbal and written communication skills

- Attention to detail

- Ability to respond productively to constructive feedback

- Ability to work well in a team setting

- Strong analytical skills

- Ability to attend the mandatory training meetings (these will be scheduled in the first two weeks of the semester).

- Relevant Coursework: Introduction to Sociology; Sociological Research Methods, Sociology of Law, Gender, Sexuality, Social Movements, Stats

Learning Goals:

We want this to be an enriching experience for you. The University of Michigan offers many excellent opportunities to engage in research alongside faculty and graduate students, and this project will hopefully align well with your interests and passions. Whether you are thinking of pursuing a career in research, policy, law, or activism – our goal is for you to gain some hands-on experience investigating one of the most important issues to impact college campuses today. By the end of your involvement in this project, you will:

1) Become familiar with the research process from a behind-the-scenes and hands-on perspective.

2) Collaborate with faculty and graduate students in a lab-based research project.

3) Code material for future data analysis.

4) Improve web-based research skills.

5) Participate in defining research objectives, developing new codes, and identifying new resources as the team continues to define the project.

Supervising Faculty Members: Elizabeth Armstrong & Sandra Levitsky 
Contact: (Kamaria Porter)
Average hours of work per week: 8
Number of credits: students may select to enroll in 3 credits of SOC394. 
Number of positions available: 8

Contact Kamaria Porter ( to schedule a brief interview.