Students hold ‘Sit in for Student Safety,’ protest professors teaching after being found guilty of misconduct by University

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Title IX Coordinator Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez takes questions from sit-in attendees on Oct. 25, 2019, outside of the provost's office in the Main Building. The sit-in protests came as a response to professors who were found guilty of violating the University's sexual misconduct policies continuing to teach.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Chants of “Actions, not words” and “No excuses for abusers” echoed through the halls of the Tower during a sit-in outside the provost’s office Friday morning.

Dozens of students at the “Sit in for Student Safety” protested English professor Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar, integrative biology and philosophy professor, staying on the University’s spring course schedule after they were found guilty of misconduct by UT.  

Protest organizer Alyssa Ashcraft said students organized the sit-in to show the provost’s office how many students are concerned about faculty continuing to teach after being found guilty of misconduct by the University. She said the organizers asked for a meeting with the provost and a university-wide communication that lists all faculty found guilty of sexual misconduct.

“This is not something that only a few students are concerned about,” said Ashcraft, government and humanities senior. “The entire student body is concerned about the fact that these abusers have access to students.”

The Office for Inclusion and Equity and the Office of Legal Affairs investigated Hutchison and found him in violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy last year for 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. At the time of publication, Hutchison and Sakar had not returned a request for comment from the Texan.

During the protest, students lined up outside University Provost Maurie McInnis’ office door, chanting and tapping on the door and walls. Many students held signs which read, “UT Austin promotes sexual violence” and “UT protects abusers.”

Protest organizer Angela Kang said the University has not responded to student concerns about faculty-perpetrated sexual misconduct. 

“The University isn’t listening,” biology senior Kang said. “This creates a platform for student voices while applying more pressure to the University in a productive way to create tangible change.”

Rose Martinelli, chief of staff of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and Joey Williams, director of communications for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, addressed the crowd about two hours into the sit-in.

“Preservation of the community is so important,” Martinelli said. ”I’m here to listen, too.”

In a statement provided to The Daily Texan, University spokesperson Shilpa Bakre said the University will be scheduling meetings with the student organizers and urged students to report any misconduct. 

“What we heard from students today is that they have concerns about their safety,” Bakre said in the statement. “This is always our top priority. We take misconduct seriously and investigate every complaint that is reported.”

Areeba Amer contributed to this story.