From Unequal Play to Unwanted Contact: Title IX in U.S. Colleges and Universities, 1972-2016
Celene Reynolds

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Yale University

Primary Discipline

Title IX, the U.S. civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, has been called one of the most significant steps towards gender equality in the last century. For decades, it was understood as the law that encouraged women’s participation in collegiate athletics. But today it is interpreted and applied almost completely differently. Title IX is increasingly mobilized in response to the problem of sexual harassment, including assault, on college campuses. My dissertation examines the processes and causes of the changing use of Title IX in the three primary organizational settings where it is enforced: the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, the courts, and on the local level of colleges and universities. I draw on quantitative and qualitative data, including an original data set of all federal Title IX complaints filed with the Department of Education since 1994, lawsuits that transformed the meaning of Title IX, and in-depth case studies of the law’s application at Yale University and the University of California-Berkeley. The project illuminates a striking change affecting campus life across America, contributes to social scientific debates about how law shapes society and vice versa, and generates knowledge crucial for strengthening higher education’s capacity to reduce social inequality.
About Celene Reynolds
Celene Reynolds is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Yale University. She is primarily interested in how laws come to be used and understood differently in organizations over time. Educational organizations, specifically colleges and universities, have been her main focus thus far. Celene’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy and recently won the Sally Hacker Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Sociological Association’s Sex and Gender Section. Her work has appeared in Social Problems, Organization, Qualitative Sociology, and Socius. Prior to joining Yale Sociology, she worked in philanthropic management consulting. Celene holds a B.A. in Sociology from Wellesley College and M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

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