Individual Experiences of and Institutional Responses to Sex Discrimination in American Higher Education, 1994-2014
Celene Reynolds

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Indiana University

Primary Discipline

Gender plays a critical role in U.S. higher education, contributing to both different and unequal experiences as well as outcomes. Decades of social scientific research have sought to identify the processes that exacerbate such disparities—from individual preferences to school policies to cultural dynamics and beyond. But one key mechanism remains largely unexplored: sex discrimination. Many people experience unequal treatment on the basis of sex in colleges and universities, and these experiences can have major effects on later life outcomes. Yet a lack of data has limited our capacity to understand sex discrimination in education, institutional responses to the problem, and its broader role in the stratification of American society. This project uses an original dataset to analyze experiences of and institutional responses to sex discrimination across U.S. higher education, today and historically. Over the last five years, I have been working with Professor Vida Maralani (Cornell Sociology) to build this dataset. We draw on information contained in more than 1,400 letters resolving federal Title IX complaints against four-year nonprofit colleges and universities from 1994 to 2014. The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) closes every complaint with a letter. These letters include extensive detail about incidents of sex discrimination on campus and attempts to remediate them. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods, I will use the dataset to write articles on (1) how discrimination experienced by men compares to discrimination experienced by women, (2) historical shifts in what the DoE recognizes as illegal sex/gender discrimination, and (3) accounts of sexual misconduct on campus.
About Celene Reynolds
Reynolds, Celene
Celene Reynolds is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University Bloomington. She studies gender inequality in organizations and the laws designed to reduce it. Her research has focused on Title IX, the 1972 U.S. civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Her forthcoming book, Unlawful Advances: How Feminists Transformed Title IX (Princeton University Press), explains why and how the law came to bar sexual harassment in schools. She argues that creative coalitions between feminist students and feminist lawyers produced this new use for the law as well as a broader shift in the meaning of equal educational opportunity. Her work also appears in the American Journal of Sociology, Social Problems, Social Science Research, and other academic journals. It has received support from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy as well as awards from several sections of the American Sociological Association.

Pin It on Pinterest