UT attempts to address sexual misconduct with expanded faculty, staff training

Maria Mendez

In an anonymous spreadsheet listing accounts of sexual misconduct in academia, UT appears multiple times.

The spreadsheet “Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsource Survey,” first reported on by The Wall Street Journal in January, is completely anonymous and unverified but has garnered attention because of the widespread accounts of misconduct. The University said it is reviewing the allegations.

“The source of this information is unknown,” University communications strategist Shilpa Bakre said in an email. “However, the University takes all complaints of discrimination/harassment seriously. The Office of Inclusion and Equity is therefore reviewing the allegations.”

The spreadsheet mimics the “Shitty Men in Media” list, which along with news investigations of film producer Harvey Weinstein, forced the media to begin confronting issues of sexual misconduct last October. These revelations sparked the Me Too movement, which has spread to multiple industries, including universities.

The University is limited in its ability to investigate the anonymous claims because they are unofficially reported and some are decades old, Bakre said. More credible concerns about inappropriate employee behavior and sexual misconduct at UT have arisen due to recent investigations from the Austin American-Statesman. However, the University has been working to prevent sexual misconduct by expanding employee training since last spring, Bakre said.

After UT System’s 2017 Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments report revealed the prevalence of sexual misconduct at UT in March, the University decided to hire an education coordinator to develop comprehensive faculty and staff training on its policies against sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. Texas’ labor code requires state agencies, such as UT, to offer employees courses defining harassment, assault, stalking and interpersonal violence as employee misconduct. The courses must be taken within 30 days of employment.

In addition to these course modules, Bakre said the University has always offered in-person training for faculty and staff. But with the education coordinator, the University is working to expand in-person training on “prevention, culture of respect, and personal accountability,” Bakre said.

Through the expanded in-person training, the University hopes to better communicate ethics focusing on behavioral and cultural change. The University does not currently have a campus-wide requirement for the in-person trainings. Instead, departments can request or require the trainings for their employees.

In the 2016–2017 academic year, the Title IX office provided in-person training to 843 employees. In January, the education coordinator provided 528 employees with training. However, the University employs more than 11,000 personnel, 3,385 faculty members and over 10,000 student employees, according to 2017 UT System and UT data. 

Elizabeth Matlock, senior human resource coordinator for UT’s Harry Ransom Center, said she recently worked with the education coordinator to provide all of the Ransom Center’s staff in-person trainings. Unlike the required state modules, Matlock said the in-person training encouraged staff members to ask questions.

“We talked through several scenarios in small groups and were able to share perspectives and ask questions unique to our institution,” Matlock said in an email.

Government and Plan II senior Austin Smith took a similar in-person training as a resident assistant and said he hopes more University departments will offer in-person training to employees in order to combat sexual misconduct.

“I think that one solution is making sure that authorities on campus are aware of the nuances of (sexual misconduct),” Smith said.

Editor's Note: This story has been edited to clarify that in-person training was provided to 843 employees in the 2016-2017 academic year. A previous version stated that 843 in-person trainings were given in the 2016-2017 academic year. The Daily Texan regrets this error.