Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Jonathan Glasser

Committee Members

Kathleen Bragdon

Jenny Putzi


In the past year, the issue of sexual assault on college campuses gained national attention, raising questions about how politicians, campus administrators, and students talk about sexual assault education and prevention. William and Mary has been no exception. In this thesis, I will discuss the various ways William and Mary students and administrators talk about sexual assault. In particular, I am interested in looking at a form of metalanguage--of language about language--that seems to surface in discussion of sexual assault. This metalanguage focuses on the relationship between language and social action, and the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of talk in addressing the problem of sexual assault. Through an analysis of meetings, documents, interviews, and informal interactions, I will explore this metalanguage. First, I will talk about the relevant literature about sexual violence, speech act theory, and speech genres in order to illustrate the theoretical tools and framework for my thesis project. Then, I will analyze how students construct their speech about sexual assault at the Sigma Chi Town Hall forum held in February 2014 and discuss how this talk reveals students’ ideologies about language’s relation to social action. Finally, using these language ideologies, I will explore the effectiveness of how the administration and students currently use language in William and Mary’s sexual assault misconduct policy and the freshman orientation sexual assault education program. These sections suggest that individuals at William and Mary think that language about sexual assault has the ability to serve as a means for social action; however, their ideologies suggest that there are certain criteria that language must meet in order for it to be effective in creating change on campus with regard to the issue of sexual assault.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

On-Campus Access Only