Procedural convergence

Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science

Publication Title

Law and Society Review


Universities face a dilemma in determining how to create fair, consistent, and reliable processes that respect the rights of both alleged perpetrators and victims and encourage people to bring complaints forward. Using the literature on non-law forms of ordering and neo-institutional theory, this article examines university Ombuds and Title IX Coordinators and their handling of sexual misconduct disputes. Primary data collection included a review of 1200 documents and interviews with 14 Ombuds and 13 Title IX Coordinators from 22 large institutions of higher education between 2011 and 2014. This study concludes that Ombuds and Title IX Coordinators, despite being designed in sharply contrasting ways, converge (but not fully) toward a hybrid of formality and informality. This paper examines Title IX to understand what drives convergence behavior and to analyze how the recent changes in the law may alter the process of convergence. As Title IX law continues to develop, the theory of procedural convergence has important implications for the creation of non-law dispute mechanisms and the balance between individual rights and the organizational development of legal norms.

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