Yakaboski, Tamara

Committee Member

Rodriguez, Katrina

Committee Member

Talbot, Chris

Committee Member

Smith, Mark


Higher Education and P-12 Education Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



320 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


It is estimated that 20% of college women have been victims of sexual assault (Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher, & Martin, 2009), an alarming rate that drew the attention of the Obama-Biden Administration. During their time in office (January 20, 2009-January 20, 2017), the Administration bolstered institutional requirements to address sexual assault in higher education under Title IX (U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2011). Even though addressing campus sexual assault was a stated priority of the (seemingly progressive) Obama-Biden Administration, there was a lack of representation among students with marginalized identities reflected in the national media conversation at the time. The purpose of this Critical Discourse Study was to examine the ideologies underlying sexual assault and its adjudication in higher education. To uncover and examine these ideological discourses, I conducted this study through a poststructural feminist paradigm (Peters & Burbules, 2004; St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000), and applied intersectionality as a theoretical framework (Crenshaw, 1991, 2014). I chose to analyze the ideologies conveyed through print news media because of its ubiquity and relationship to the formation of public opinion. I analyzed 340 print news articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chronicle of Higher Education that were published during the Obama-Biden Administration (January 20, 2009-January 20, 2017) and identified four ideological findings: (1) violence as the problem and solution, (2) money motivates action, (3) preventing sexual assault is up to everyone, except perpetrators, and (4) the University is its football program. Each of these four underpinning ideologies support social stratification through dynamics of affluent, white, cisheteropatriarchal values and norms being dominant over others. Ultimately, dynamics of power and oppression supported by the rhetoric rely on the same attitudes and beliefs that uphold sexual violence as a social issue. This study is significant to the field of higher education because it provides a critical examination of ideological assumptions surrounding sexual assault adjudication in a contemporary legal and political environment and contributes to the growing body of literature in higher education applying intersectionality as a theoretical framework. Intersectionality can help us understand the complexities of sexual assault and the reproduction of dominance perpetuated through white, cisheteropatriarchal systems such as higher education.

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