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Repurposing Title IX: How Sexual Harassment Became Sex Discrimination in American Higher Education1

Sexual harassment is one of the most significant problems facing American higher education today, and Title IX requires schools to address it. Yet Title IX was not created to confront sexual harassment, and the statute does not mention sexual harassment. This article explains how sexual harassment became a form of illegal sex discrimination in education under Title IX. Triangulating multiple data sources across linked case studies of three universities, I find that the mutual interpenetration of social networks across the educational and legal domains stimulated the shift, which exemplifies a more general process that I call the endogenous repurposing of law. This concept combines institutional theory on law and organizations with social network research on institutional emergence to clarify how new applications of law arise from within the organizations that law seeks to regulate.