Leadership in times of crisis : a mixed methods case study on administrative responses to social crises related to sexual misconduct and relationship violence in higher education.
Federal laws have prohibited gender disparity in Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) since 1972. Research shows that college-aged women remain more vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault than any other demographic. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights has investigated many institutions to assess the institutions and the systems that are in place to protect individuals from sexual misconduct. These investigations have revealed significant institutional failures, and some have resulted in a full-scale social crisis. The crisis triggers a period of accelerated change for the IHE as administrators seek to mitigate the scandal’s adverse effects. IHEs respond to the crisis with various interventions to raise awareness and reduce the likelihood of a repeat crisis. Due to inconsistencies in data reporting, the interventions’ effectiveness is unclear, and IHEs remain at risk of crisis. The scholarly research on how IHEs navigate crises is limited as the phenomenon is not well understood. This study contributes to the existing body of literature by providing an organizational-level analysis of how IHEs respond to social crises. This mixed method case study explores how IHEs navigate a Title IX crisis. The theoretical frameworks informing this study are gendered organizations, crisis management, and institutionalism. The research design is an embedded mixed method, multiple-case design. The cases were selected using a purposive case sampling strategy. Due to the sensitive nature of this subject, the study draws upon publicly available data. The quantitative data under review includes self-reported data provided by the IHEs to the Office of Civil Rights as part of their annual reporting requirements. The study also includes qualitative data collected from publicly available archival documents. Both quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed simultaneously and used to compile composite profiles of the institutions and compared them to develop a framework for understanding crisis response. The study found that the IHE’s perceptions of gender disparity and conceptualizations of gender-based violence shape their crisis response. The IHE’s crisis response can be gender-neutral or gendered. These findings provide valuable insight into how IHEs respond to social crises and inform best practices for crisis response.