Why are they still here? Professors with history of misconduct still on spring course schedule

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Photo Credit: Nathan Dinh | Daily Texan Staff

Update 10/30/19: A report provided to the Texan by JB Bird, director of media relations for UT, indicates that of the 44 reports filed against faculty and staff during the 2016-2017 school year, 6 resulted in findings of violations.

We’re sick of writing this editorial. 

We’re sick of having to warn students semester after semester after semester after semester that professors who may be teaching their classes have committed sexual misconduct against students. 

Yet, UT brings these same professors back on the class schedule to teach undergraduate students and honors courses. The University has made painfully little effort to let students know about these professors’ histories, the sexual misconduct that their students have endured — and could easily endure again.

Coleman Hutchison was found in violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy twice. Graduate students described his inappropriate comments and overt sexual advances. He will be teaching an English Honors and Liberal Arts Honors course this spring, E 350R, which is cross-listed as LAH 350.

Sahotra Sarkar was found in violation of Title IX policy, and was suspended for a semester and prohibited from teaching or advising during that time. Students said he asked them to pose for nude photographs and swim with him at nude beaches. He will be teaching two lower-division philosophy courses, PHL 315F and PHL 316K, this spring.

Hutchison and Sarkar have denied many of the allegations. Neither were available for comment before print.

We wish we could tell you the names of the other professors who are still teaching after targeting their students. There were 44 misconduct complaints filed by students against faculty and staff during the 2016-17 school year. We can only definitively mention Hutchison and Sarkar. We only know about their actions through the work of student and professional journalists and the survivors courageous enough to come forward.

We reached out to the English Honors Program to determine why they are letting Hutchison teach one of their courses, a small class designed for less than 35 students. In a statement emailed to us by Martin Kevorkian, chair of the English department, the University said they “do not believe Hutchison is a safety threat to students.”

Remember that Phil Nemy, the former UT-Los Angeles director, was found in violation of University sexual misconduct policy in 2013. No one told students, and he was rehired year after year. After The Daily Texan broke the story of his misconduct in December 2018, four more people came forward with complaints of misconduct that occurred after his initial violation.

Nemy no longer works for UT, but the damage was done. The University didn’t view him as enough of a threat in 2013 to keep away from students, and more students were targeted.

Hutchison has been found in violation of two policies, Sarkar one. How many violations does it take to become a threat to student safety?

When Hutchison was scheduled to teach undergraduates last fall after being found in violation of misconduct and harassment policies, UT removed him from the schedule after our pushback as a community. It was a small victory, but protecting students from possible misconduct is always worth celebrating. He is, however, teaching an English course this semester.

Now, we must again stand together as a community to protect ourselves and our peers.

Today, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., students are holding a sit-in at Provost Maurie McInnis’ office, Main Building 201. They’re calling for a UT-wide report informing students of professors who have violated the University’s sexual misconduct policy. They also demand a town hall led by the provost, an increase in resources for interpersonal violence prevention, and a statement from the University in response to these demands.

We’ll be joining them. We hope you will too.

Even if Hutchison and Sarkar are removed from next semester’s course schedule there will still be up to 44 faculty and staff  who have committed harassment or misconduct that we don’t know about. This is only based on data from the 2016-17 school year, so that number could be much higher.

Students deserve a database with all findings of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault violations committed by professors and faculty. We deserve to know which professors have targeted our peers. We deserve to walk into classrooms and office hours without wondering whether our professors will threaten our personal safety.

If UT is ashamed to make this information public and accessible — if they are afraid it will hurt the University’s image — then shame on them. The vanity of this institution will never be more important than the 50,000 students it serves.

The editorial board is composed of associate editors Emily Caldwell, Angélica López, Sanika Nayak, Abby Springs and editor-in-chief Spencer Buckner.