Students gather again at Tower to protest professors found guilty of sexual misconduct by University

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Photo Credit: Kirsten Hahn | Daily Texan Staff

Students gathered in the Tower Friday and chanted phrases such as “Abusive professors deserve to die!” and “Kick out abusive creeps!” during the second Sit-In for Student Safety. 

Around 20 students called for the firing of English associate professor Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar, integrative biology and philosophy professor, who were both found guilty of sexual misconduct by the University. The protestors also requested a campuswide email explicitly naming the professors and a University apology for employing professors guilty of misconduct.

A 2018 University investigation found Hutchison violated UT’s sexual misconduct policy after making sexual comments to students and failing to disclose a relationship with a graduate student. 

Sarkar was suspended for one semester in 2017 after a University investigation found he violated UT’s Title IX policies by making inappropriate comments to students, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Hutchison and Sarkar did not respond to requests for comment before publication. 

Around 60 students previously held a sit-in in the Tower on Oct. 25, where they requested the University acknowledge allegations of sexual misconduct in a campuswide email and release a report of all professors found guilty of sexual misconduct by UT.

During Friday’s protest outside the provost’s office, students posted signs on the walls outside of the provost’s office, the president’s office, the accused professors’ offices and around the Tower. Protest organizer Annie Flores said she was dissatisfied with the University’s response and wanted to see them take action. 

 

“Words are just words,” psychology sophomore Flores said. “We would like to see these people fired. We’re the second wealthiest university (in the nation). We can afford to fire a couple of professors who abuse students.”

In a campuswide email sent Thursday, UT President Gregory Fenves said the University would be forming a task force and hiring outside experts to review sexual misconduct policies. Fenves said the University also approved three additional investigators for the Office for Inclusion and Equity.

The protest was originally planned to be outside of Fenves’ office, but Flores said the door was locked. University spokesperson Shilpa Bakre said the University typically locks the offices during a protest. 

“The University respects students’ freedom of speech and right to protest,” Bakre said in a statement. “Consistent with University rules and federal law, interior offices can be locked so that the business of running the University can continue during protests.”

Neuroscience senior Jessica Meza said it was important for her to get involved in the protest because of her and her friends’ experiences with “creepy” professors. She said the University has been slow to respond to cases like these due to their “priority of profits” and “research” over the safety of students.

“At a systematic level, the University has failed (students) time and time again,” Meza said. “We have to stop looking to them to make the change. People who have been oppressed and exploited have to go out there and fight for that change.”

Hazel Kent, theatre and dance sophomore, said she joined today’s sit-in because of how prevalent sexual misconduct is on campus. 

“I want the University to apologize to us, and I want them to take responsibility for the choices they’ve made,” Kent said. “It’s not hard to just look at the faces of your students and say ‘I’m sorry for what we’ve done to you.’”