Abstract: Development and Testing of a Measure of Campus Sexual Assault Policy Implementation Based on Institutional Theory (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Development and Testing of a Measure of Campus Sexual Assault Policy Implementation Based on Institutional Theory

Sunday, January 14, 2018: 11:52 AM
Marquis BR Salon 8 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Carrie Moylan, PhD, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Amy Hammock, PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY
Background: In response to recent student demand, federal government oversight, and media scrutiny, many colleges and universities have been engaged in sexual assault policy reform on their campuses. Though research is limited, studies suggest that these efforts may only create surface-level changes or be vulnerable to erosion if oversight wanes.  Institutional theory provides a compelling framework for understanding how pressures external to institutions shape organizational behavior.  Institutional theory posits that organizations are influenced by coercive pressures of legislation, mimetic pressures to emulate peers, and normative pressures shaping expectations.  Attempts to manage these pressures can lead to decoupling, in which institutions appear to respond to external pressures on the surface, while protecting themselves from fully implementing changes.   This study explores an author-developed scale assessing institutional theory constructs related to campus sexual assault.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from individuals involved in campus sexual assault reform using an online survey advertised on professional listservs and sent directly to potential participants. The survey included a 26-item scale based on institutional theory, authors’ knowledge of campus sexual violence, and previous research by the first author.  Additional scales were developed to capture related constructs of participants’ attitudes about campus sexual assault reforms and perceptions of campus priorities.  The sample (n=130) included student affairs staff and administrators, Title IX officers, advocates and prevention staff from 24 states.  Participants were from a range of campuses including public campuses (60.4%), private not-for-profit campuses (36.9%), 4 year schools (85.6%), 2 year schools (13.5%), institutions with less than 5000 students (43.6%), campuses with over 10000 students (40%), research universities (32.6%) and small liberal arts colleges (31.2%).

Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify an underlying factor structure in all three scales. Factor solutions were identified based on an examination of eigen values, a visual scree plot, and interpretability. Factor loadings were rotated using promax rotation and then used to assign items to a factor based on the largest loading. 

Results:  Analysis identified a five factor underlying structure for the institutional theory scale, explaining 50.3% of the variation.  Interpretation revealed that the factors mostly aligned with the intended concepts of institutional theory.  The individual attitudes scale revealed a three factor solution explaining 49.5% of the variation.  Loadings suggest factors for “campus rape is exaggerated”, “reforms have improved campuses”, and “frustration with bureaucracy”.  The perceptions of campus priorities scale revealed a three factor solution, explaining 58.9% of variation.  Loadings suggest factors for “increasing victim-centered processes”, “ensuring compliance”, and “managing public image”. 

Implications:  The factor structure of the primary scale appears to align with the concepts of institutional theory, suggesting that it is appropriate for use in further analysis.  The related individual attitudes and campus priorities scales seem to echo the tensions that might lead to decoupling, including competing perspectives on the necessity of campus sexual violence reform, compliance pressures, and pressures to protect campus reputation.  Directions for future research and implications for understanding reform efforts in an era of changing federal oversight will be discussed.