Theses/Dissertations - Educational Leadership

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    "Beyond those gates" : how the process of earning a college degree in prison shapes a person's hoped-for self.
    (2023-08) Abouras, Rachel, 1994-; Alleman, Nathan F., 1975-
    The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore how the process of earning a college degree in the prison context shaped the hoped-for selves of 23 formerly incarcerated individuals. My research focus was twofold: First, I wanted to understand how the content of participants’ hoped-for selves changed as a result of earning a college degree in prison; then, I wanted to understand what aspects of the higher education in prison (HEP) context contributed to those changes. Using a conceptual framework that combined symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969) with possible selves theory (Markus & Nurius, 1986; SI-PSs), I was able to explore how certain contextual factors–namely, learning interactions and the physical environment–influenced what participants understood to be desirable, yet plausible, for themselves in the future. Findings revealed that participants tended to envision their future selves in increasingly community service-oriented terms while attending college in prison. Additionally, participants often saw themselves pursuing further education in the future. These community-oriented, academic future selves remained consistent even after one’s release from prison. Further, findings highlighted how interactions where participants felt validated by their faculty, connected to their peers, and/or were able to develop increased self-awareness significantly influenced how they viewed themselves in the future. Participants’ hoped-for selves were, in other words, largely shaped by three overlapping processes which I refer to as confirmation, connection, and contextualization. These processes each necessitated and facilitated a capacity to be vulnerable and expose oneself emotionally in an environment where vulnerability was typically discouraged. This study thus underscores the importance of vulnerability in the prison college classroom, as well as the unique ways in which the prison environment may, paradoxically, enhance a person’s learning experience. Implications for research, theory, and practice are outlined and discussed.
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    Student interactions with peers and their influence on first-semester GPA.
    (May 2023) McDowell, Kristen M., 1994-; Sriram, Rishi.
    This study focuses on the extent peer interactions in first-year college students affect their first-semester GPA by utilizing the Academic, Social, and Deeper Life Interactions Instrument to measure the experience of college students through their interactions with peers (Sriram et al., 2020a). I created a structural equation model to illustrate the pathways of relationships between the latent variables—Academic Interactions with Peers, Social Interactions with Peers, and Deeper Life Interactions with Peers—to the dependent variable of GPA. The social interaction's direct path to deeper life interactions was significant (β = .66, p < .001). The academic interaction's direct path to deeper life interactions was also significant (β = .22, p < .002). Deeper life interactions had a direct effect on GPA that was significant (β = .24, p < .01). This is the first study to demonstrate that peer interactions—and in particular deeper life interactions—positively influence GPA.
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    “Lithuanian is the English” : how language policy and ideology condition internationalization by mediating access to spaces of opportunity and community at a Lithuanian University.
    (May 2023) Hoye, Kathleen A. R., 1990-; Alleman, Nathan F., 1975-
    The purpose of this study is to understand how the language ideologies embedded within de jure and de facto language policies inform and relate to the socialization and language practices of graduate students, faculty, and administrators of a prominent Lithuanian university. Few studies have explored how language policies and language practices shape the socialization experiences of graduate students, faculty, or administrators. Little is known about how these dynamics change in post-Soviet and minoritized-majority language contexts, such as Lithuania where the national language has substantial symbolic and communicative power. This study integrates a symbolic interactionist theoretical perspective with the glonacal agency heuristic as a framework to understand how faculty, graduate students, and administrators negotiate the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between language policies and language practices in ways that influence interpersonal interaction and communication. The findings from this study demonstrate that national and institutional de jure policies effectively regulated the languages of core academic activities, and indirectly functioned as gatekeeping mechanisms that maintained the Lithuanian-dominant demographics of academic faculty by perpetuating privileged employment pathways. Furthermore, the findings show how faculty, administrators, and graduate students exercised their agency to engage in language practices in spatially and socially dynamic ways, allowing them to strategically capitalize on the benefits of using English in selected “international” spaces and activities that aligned with their motivations and institutional incentives, while also maintaining the existing linguistic hierarchy that privileged Lithuanian in most local social, academic, professional spaces. Lastly, this study’s findings reveal how these circumstances contributed to asymmetrical socialization, with access to information, resources, and opportunities that privileged the experiences of Lithuanian-speakers, compared to their non-Lithuanian speaking counterparts.
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    “Everything is a toxic competition” : how social interactions contribute to self-efficacy beliefs and resulting behavior in vocal divisions.
    (May 2023) Deger, Brynn R., 1998-; Sriram, Rishi.
    Musicians identify deeply with their craft, signaling the importance of self-belief as an important social variable to examine with implications spanning to vast areas of their identity. Believing in one’s own abilities, or self-efficacy, has been identified as the dominant informant of one’s self-perception, action, efforts, and achievements (Bandura, 1997). This study investigates the role self-belief plays in college music students’ quest towards excellence in character and craft. Specifically, how do social interactions inform undergraduate vocal experiences and perceptions of self-efficacy in a vocal division when combined with each student’s cognitive positioning (i.e., fixed or growth mindset)? Findings revealed that students' self-efficacy is highly dependent on their vicarious experiences, positioning their ability as superior or inferior as a vocalist. Implications based on this research are for music educators to increase awareness of social-interaction's impact on students' wellness and initiatives to improve persuasive structures.
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    Selling place, selling faith : what Christian university tour guides reveal about a theology of place.
    (May 2023) Woodford, Madison N., 1999-; Alleman, Nathan F., 1975-
    Christian college campuses are theologically-imbued places of higher learning. Drawing from their personal experiences and professional trainings, campus tour guides are uniquely positioned to introduce a theology of place to prospective students. From a qualitative paradigm and symbolic interactionist approach, this project investigated the lives, work, and meaning-making of ten tour guides through interviews, as well as official and personal campus tours to answer the following research question: How do tour guides on a Christian college campus experience, interpret, and convey a theology of place to prospective students? Study findings reveal that guides felt connected to their campus community and experienced God’s presence everywhere, privileged realities they– through symbols, objects, and interactions – strategically shared and subtly normalized for tour-goers. This study ultimately illuminates the challenges of mission-based practice, shedding new light on how students uniquely navigated these tensions, and challenging higher education practitioners to think theologically about the campus places they work to promote.
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    Invisible and ambiguous : the racialized experience of Asian American administrators in Christian higher education.
    (May 2023) Jeong, Elijah Gunwon, 1985-; Alleman, Nathan F., 1975-
    This qualitative study investigated the racialized experiences of Asian American administrators in Christian higher education. Through personal interviews with 23 Asian American administrators across Christian higher education, the study aimed to provide a more complex analysis of the administrators' racialized experiences. The analysis focused on three specific factors: (1) challenges and barriers, (2) unique racialization, and (3) assets, capital, and strengths leveraged to resist and succeed in higher education. The results showed that the challenges faced by Asian American administrators were not reducible to a single factor but were a result of a host of different factors. The findings revealed that participants discussed three identity-based challenges (racial, gendered, and religious) and two other key administrative challenges (lack of Faculty and Staff of Color and ineffective racial diversity efforts). Additionally, the study found that Asian American administrators not only faced the various challenges and barriers faced by all People of Color, but also faced challenges and barriers that were specific to Asian Americans, such as the consequences of navigating the Black White Binary, including invisibility and ambiguity. Despite these challenges, Asian American administrators were not passive victims of marginalization, but instead resisted, persisted, and leveraged various strengths and assets in their work as Christian higher education administrators. The findings identified and described seven forms of cultural capital leveraged in Christian higher education: aspirational, familial, linguistic, social, resistant, navigational, and spiritual.
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    The outrageous idea of Christian coaching : a “grounded theology” of faith-sport integration among coaches at CCCU institutions.
    (August 2022) Strehlow, Sean M., 1990-; Glanzer, Perry L. (Perry Lynn)
    The relationship between faith and learning is a central question in Christian higher education. However, faith integration in the co-curricular realm, specifically intercollegiate athletics, remains a nascent line of inquiry and an area for expanded scholarship. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative dissertation was to lay an empirical foundation for a theory of faith-sport integration from the experiences of athletic coaches at CCCU institutions. This study conceptualized faith-sport integration, both, as a coaching philosophy as well as a process of identity coherence between coaches’ Christian and professional identities. In this study, I employed grounded theology, as a qualitative method that merges grounded theory and practical theology to generate new theological frameworks that illuminate faithful practice (Stevens, 2017). My analysis included in-depth interviews with 45 head coaches of NCAA Division III programs at CCCU institutions, with diverse representation of geographical location and denominational affiliation (within the evangelical tradition). Findings include a descriptive analysis of participants’ professional and pedagogical practices that integrate faith and sport, as well as an explanatory account of the narrative process that tracks how coaches come to understand faith-sport integration and apply it to their programs. A new theological framework for coaching and its implications for future research and practice are discussed.
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    Pandemic teaching : application of universal design for learning in eighth-grade English language arts and reading.
    (2021-04-09) Sharp, Amy A., 1982-; Wilson, John E. (Professor)
    The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of education globally, requiring educators to teach online and in-building with social distancing protocols. In this context, U.S. school districts were tasked with addressing learner variability in new ways. The purpose of this multiple case study was to understand the application of universal design for learning (UDL) strategies used by eighth-grade English language arts and reading educators in the Texas Independent School District, a one-to-one public school district. The study contributes to the literature on the effectiveness of UDL-based practices by addressing how course design is essential to meeting students' diverse learning needs in synchronous remote learning or socially distanced in-building learning during an emergency. The researcher captured the application of UDL during course design, combined with district-approved digital tools and teaching strategies, to understand how this practice affected course delivery in the synchronous remote and socially distanced, in-building learning environments. A literature review, review of district structures and systems, and qualitative case study of a three member, eighth-grade professional learning community were used to study the application of UDL during the pandemic. The researcher coded and analyzed the data obtained to reveal three themes with six subthemes. The first theme, change in purpose, contained one subtheme: ready-to-learn based upon life situations created a need-to-know and apply for survival. The second theme, change in course materials and content delivery, included three subthemes: (a) the validity of the content, (b) how the content was structured, and (c) the importance of clarity concerning how information was being delivered to their students. The last theme, change in teaching perspectives, was associated with the following subthemes: (a) modifying teaching strategies as the awareness of learner variability increased and (b) innovations supporting nontraditional teaching methods as the participants recognized varying student learning needs in their synchronous remote or in-building instructional settings. Findings revealed the need to develop a comprehensive, district-wide approach to addressing learner variability through professional development and the professional learning community model.
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    Intersections of embodiment and racism : the impact of a student's identity on their interactions with others.
    (2020-04-01) Haag, Jillian, 1995-; Sriram, Rishi.
    Embodiment, the reciprocal influence of the mind and body on a person’s identity, can be utilized to understand undergraduates’ engagement with the world when it is studied in relation to cross-racial interactions and internal motivation to respond without prejudice. The present research used multiple regression analysis to study the relationship between college students’ personal levels of embodiment and the ways in which students think about and interact with racially and ethnically diverse others. The data from this research show that bodily responsiveness has a positive effect on both a student’s internal motivation to respond without prejudice and their frequency of cross-racial interactions. The data also show that objectified body consciousness has a negative effect on student’s internal motivation to respond without prejudice and their frequency of cross-racial interactions.
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    The overlooked influence of competency within advising and supporting upon competency within leadership in student affairs.
    (2022-05-06) Fletcher, Meghan E., 1998-; Sriram, Rishi.
    This study aims to provide a framework for understanding the development of student affairs professionals’ self-perception of leadership competency through the improvement of advising and supporting competencies. The model set forth in this study provides a framework for understanding the relationship between student affairs professionals’ perceptions of their organizational and human resource, advising and supporting, personal and ethical foundations competencies, and examines their relationship to self-perceived leadership competencies. Analysis of data collected revealed a strong relationship between advising and supporting and leadership. Additional analyses indicated the significant relationship of personal and ethical foundations on organizational and human resources and advising and supporting. Additionally, analyses showed a positive relationship between organizational and human resources and advising and supporting competencies. Further research is needed to explore the implications of these findings and the additional relationships between competency areas of student affairs professionals.
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    Principals of small rural schools as instructional leaders for special education.
    (2022-03-30) Rogers, Amy Reed, 1968-; Urick, Angela.
    Principals have many responsibilities and priorities daily. For principals serving in small rural schools, their role as instructional leaders can be even more challenging. Given the complexities of their job, principals are charged with ensuring that all students are safe and receive the required instruction, supports, resources, special education, and other special programs, which involves intentionality with collaboration, communication, and trust equally interfaced with all stakeholders. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to elucidate the experiences of how principals structure services of special education for students with disabilities and support instructional practices of special education teachers in the small rural context. Four principals from small rural schools participated in this study and were selected using replication logic. The findings yielded 10 instructional leadership practices. Three of the instructional leadership practices emerged from two principals fundamentally different from their peers and aligned with continuous improvement school models and inclusive models of practice. The macro tasks include establishing a vision for learning, planning for instruction, and system innovation.
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    Principal transformational leadership and the Texas Instructional Leadership Action Coaching program : a qualitative case study.
    (2022-02-25) White, Gayle A., 1964-; Carpenter, Bradley W.
    Transformational leadership continues to be in the spotlight, given that school systems are becoming increasingly demanding and complex. Evidence has shown principal effectiveness is foundational to the quality of instruction and student achievement. According to literature, leadership coaching has become one of the fastest growing initiatives in education. In 2017, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) created the Texas Instructional Leadership (TIL) Action Coaching program to foster and equip principal leadership skills through coaching. The purpose of this study was to understand how leadership coaching impacted principal transformation leadership as a result of participating in the TIL Action Coaching program. This qualitative case study with embedded multiple units of analysis included a literature review and a triangulation of methods including an open-ended demographic questionnaire, semistructured interviews, and a document review. The contextual setting for the research was the Region 12 consortium of schools in central Texas. The researcher coded and analyzed three deductive categories and uncovered six inductive emergent themes related to leadership coaching and transformational leadership theoretical frameworks. Data identified the leadership coaching category of transformational processes with the theme of growth and nuances of reflection and collaboration. Regarding the leadership coaching category of listening, observation, and feedback, findings revealed the nuance of personalized supports. The category of transformational leadership revealed the attribute of intellectual stimulation demonstrating the emergent theme of challenge including three nuances of meaning—shared leadership, systems and protocols, and vulnerability.
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    Teachers’ implementation of social-emotional learning programs in the kindergarten classroom.
    (2022-01-24) Gerik, Denae, 1983-; Carpenter, Bradley W.
    Students’ and teachers’ social-emotional learning (SEL) is the foundation upon which academic learning can thrive. A systematic implementation of SEL programs, with teachers’ awareness of how they affect the implementation, is needed to understand its implications of embedding SEL in the classroom. This qualitative study aimed to examine how kindergarten teachers’ teaching through imitation, identification, and social roles, based on Bandura’s social learning theory, shaped the implementation of CharacterStrong, an SEL program. The data from the research study indicated kindergarten teachers identified the intentionality of their actions, intentionality of their words, and perceptions of student behavior when implementing SEL in the classroom. Kindergarten teachers also influenced the implementation of CharacterStrong thorough their social roles in the classroom. The conclusions from the data highlighted future implications: a scaffolded approach to classroom implementation of SEL programs and self-reflection through the implementation process to build teacher self-efficacy. Future longitudinal research is needed to show the effects of SEL programs on students as they progress through school and to study teacher perceived capacity to teach students social-emotional skills.
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    Well-being and the vocation of the school superintendent.
    (2022-02-15) Vales, Angel A., 1979-; Urick, Angela.
    School superintendents face numerous challenges, high demands, and pressures from the community, school board, and stakeholders. State and federal accountability policies and mandates contribute to rising levels of stress for superintendents, which negatively affects their health and well-being. As a result, superintendents are leaving their positions sooner, which impacts a district’s growth and stability. Superintendents who do stay in their positions often experience the negative effects of stress leading up to job burnout. The purpose of this phenomenological case study was to understand the perceptions of school superintendents regarding their well-being and to examine how school superintendents perceive adopting well-being practices to enhance a work-life balance and managing job-related challenges and stresses. Nine superintendents from public and charter school districts in Texas participated in this study. The findings show how superintendents’ biggest sources of stress stem from decision-making and work demands, while support groups, physical health, and vacations promote their well-being the most. Superintendents also consider work-life balance to be essential to their well-being as an imbalance can cause stress to spillover to other areas of their lives. A call for superintendent support groups and networks was voiced to empower superintendents with the tools and guidance needed to succeed and remain effective in their jobs.
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    Assistant principal burnout : a quantitative non-experimental correlational investigation of burnout theory and well-being theory to address burnout in assistant principals.
    (2022-02-25) Harris, April R., 1985-; Carpenter, Bradley W.
    Assistant principals play a critical role in developing the climate and culture of a campus, and over the last three decades they have become an integral part of the aggregate known as educational leadership (Hausman et al., 2002, p. 136). Unfortunately, they are suffering from job stress and burnout from a lack of a clearly defined job roles, creating strenuous working environments and work overload. This issue, if gone unaddressed, can potentially create retention issues for educational systems and mental/physical ailments in these individuals. For this reason, I chose to conduct a quantitative non-experimental correlational survey study to determine whether correlations existed between the major concepts of the burnout theory and well-being theory in assistant principals across the state Texas. This study utilized Maslach’s Burnout Inventory for Educator’s, Seligman’s Workplace PERMA Profiler, and a demographical survey. The surveys were sent to all 12,437 assistant principals in Texas and 950 participated. The study yielded the following statistically significant findings. 1) findings indicated that as perceptions of burnout increase, perceptions of well-being tended to decrease; 2) findings showed strong evidence that Texas assistant principals were burned out, 93.2% indicating emotional exhaustion and 94.2% indicating depersonalization; 3) findings indicated that years of experience as an assistant principal and the age of assistant principals played a role in the burnout levels of these educational professionals; and 4) follow up predictive analyses found that depersonalization was a major contributor to decreased feelings of personal accomplishment and identified females as exhibiting higher levels of emotional exhaustion. The study’s findings revealed limitations within the study and critical correlations between the personal and professional variables associated with burnout in assistant principals. These future research recommendations were suggested to address the limitations: replicate to a mixed method quasi-experimental study, investigate deeper into what is creating burnout, and develop a survey with deeper/richer questioning. Future professional practices suggested were implementation of mindfulness and positive psychology practices for leaders, professional development specific to the well-being of leaders, budget for well-being for leaders, make it a part of the district and campus improvement plan, and create a well-being team for the district.
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    The influence of teacher resilience on retention rates in high-poverty, high-minority schools.
    (2021-12-02) Ward, Donna J., 1969-; Urick, Angela.
    Teacher turnover is on the rise due to job dissatisfaction. Factors leading to job dissatisfaction include increased demands on student accountability, increased workload, teacher victimization, and a lack of administrative support. Teachers today must possess the ability to endure and overcome adversity while managing the requirements of the job. This study aimed to identify the adult personal resilience characteristics of teachers in high-poverty, high-minority schools that allow them to stay in the classroom without burning out. These teacher characteristics were identified using Taormina’s adult personal resilience theory, which defined four dimensions of adult personal resilience: determination, endurance, adaptability, and recuperability. Although teachers who stayed scored on average higher than teachers who left the district on all four dimensions, the findings were not statistically significant. Suggestions are made for practice as well as further research in this understudied area.
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    The art of change leadership and the science of implementation.
    (2021-12-09) Donnell, Jacob, 1983-; Wilson, John E. (Professor)
    This dissertation investigates the efficacy of Implementation Science in K-12 public school leadership. Far from a checklist, Implementation Science is a framework for understanding change which values the perspective, expertise, and involvement of everyone within the organization. Teachers from two school districts, both of which undergoing change, were surveyed. The survey instrument used an Implementation Science framework to gauge leader behaviors as well as followers’ satisfaction with the implementation. Findings show that Implementation Science is an effective way for leaders to facilitate the change process.
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    The degree to which mindfulness practice interventions affect perceptions of job satisfaction in middle school teachers within Central Texas.
    (2022-01-20) Bruce, Jolene B., 1978-; Eckert, Jonathan.
    Educators today face challenges beyond the scope of College Preparation Programs, with problems never before experienced. To study an opportunity for reducing burnout and support teachers will be beneficial for our educational community and student achievement.
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    Environment and affluence : how food insecurity shapes student identity at a selective flagship institution.
    (2021-07-13) Cliburn Allen, Cara, 1991-; Alleman, Nathan F., 1975-
    The purpose of this study is to understand how students who experience food insecurity manage and display their identity at a selective state flagship institution with a culture of affluence. Though many scholars have sought to establish the prevalence of food insecurity on college campuses, little is known about how different environmental contexts shape how a student experiences food insecurity and how students shape the campus in return. This study utilizes a sociological framework to understand the dynamic relationship between students and college environments. The findings of this study provide a model that can be used to understand how students experience food insecurity across multiple environmental contexts. Additionally, findings show how students are socialized to navigate affluent environments, but also how they exert agency within the space through two modalities: Instrumentalists and Opportunists.
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    Incompatible? : How Christian faith informs Title IX policy and practice.
    (2021-07-07) Graber, Britney N., 1990-; Glanzer, Perry L. (Perry Lynn)
    Extensive literature exists on the integration of faith and learning, or faith and practice, in Christian higher education (e.g., Beers 2003; Beers & Beers, 2008; Dockery & Morgan, 2018; Glanzer et al., 2020a; Guthrie, 1997; Harris, 2004; Hasker, 1992; Holmes 1977, 1987; Herrmann et al., 2018). However, the literature is largely void of the connection between Christian faith and Title IX policy or practice. This study contributes to closing this gap in the literature. The purpose of this study was to understand how Christian faith informs Title IX policy and practice at Christian colleges and universities. This study employed interpretative phenomenological analysis as a qualitative methodological approach (Smith et al., 1999; Smith et al., 2009), and used Glanzer and Robinson’s (2019) modification of Benne’s (2001) Christian institutions typology. Three data collection methods were utilized to understand the experiences of Title IX coordinators at Critical-mass and Orthodox Christian institutions (N = 228): (1) qualitative survey, (2) in-depth interviews with survey participants, and (3) Title IX policies as provided by survey participants. In all, 88 Title IX coordinators completed the survey, of which 20 participated in an in-depth interview, and 59 Title IX policies were provided for analysis. The findings of this study demonstrated that Title IX coordinators’ faith influenced their Title IX work in a spectrum of ways, but generally fell into three major themes: (1) the positive influence of their Christian worldview on their Title IX work in how Title IX coordinators view and care for students and the campus community; (2) the complicating factors other institutional policies bring to Title IX work, specifically regarding the topic of consent and policies that inhibit reporting; and (3) the challenges and pushback on Title IX due to campus culture steeped in purity culture and unhealthy views of Title IX. From these findings, five implications for practice emerged related to the need for sex education from a Christian perspective, amnesty provisions, appropriate Bible application to Title IX-related situations, language-use in policy and practice, and the necessity to discuss consent and biblical sexual ethics in appropriate contexts.