UT will release names of employees who violated sexual misconduct policies — if you request

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin told KXAN the names of faculty and staff who were disciplined in the last three years for sexual misconduct will be available, but only if you ask for it through an open records request.

University officials said the school had previously made available sexual misconduct violation information from 2013 through most of 2017 if people asked for them through open records requests. They’re working on updating the document.

However, some students want the names published. They’re also questioning how UT handles misconduct allegations.

“Thus far, UT has not shown transparency,” said Kaya Epstein.

Students call for immediate action

Dozens of students have been holding sit-ins and protests throughout the semester. They gathered again Friday, saying Professors Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar should not be in classrooms.

UT students protest at the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 12 (KXAN/Chris Nelson)

According to UT, Sarkar, who teaches philosophy and integrative biology, was suspended for a semester after complaints accused him of inviting students to go swimming at a nude beach, asking for nude photos, holding school-related meetings at bars and leading discussions that were sexual in nature.

UT’s investigation concluded he violated the school’s policy. Sarkar returned to teaching after the suspension.

UT also looked into complaints filed against Hutchison. Those claimed the professor sexually harassed a graduate student.

Ultimately, the university concluded Hutchison violated policies when he failed to report a consensual relationship with a student and making inappropriate remarks to graduate students.

For academic years 2018-19 and 2019-20, he’s barred from:

  • Supervising graduate students by himself
  • Promotion from associate professor to professor with tenure
  • Appointment to any administrative or leadership positions

Students like Epstein said, UT should’ve notified its students about these sanctions.

“For me, personally, I just know that the possibility that I’ll walk into a class and learn half way through the semester that my professor is a predator is extremely concerning,” Epstein.

She added, “They were convicted. They served a punishment. And now maybe they aren’t a threat, though there’s no guarantee of that. The public can choose to associate with them or not.”

UT officials told KXAN they don’t send notices because its practices are based on “federal and state privacy concerns” and in line with most higher education institutions.

It is, however, consulting with experts to review best practices related to sexual misconduct violations.

In response to the protests, UT has recently formed a “Misconduct Working Group.” They’re going to host a town hall forum next month.

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