President Fenves addresses sexual misconduct policy concerns in campuswide email

Lauren Grobe

UT President Gregory Fenves sent a campuswide email Thursday regarding upcoming changes to the University’s sexual misconduct policies. 

Fenves said the University will be hiring a team of outside experts to review its sexual misconduct policies. He said they will also be forming a staff and faculty working group to internally review the policies. 

“The University will soon hire a team of outside experts to examine UT’s processes surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct and work to bring further clarity to our procedures,” Fenves said in the email. “We hope to finalize our agreement with them in the coming weeks.”

Fenves said the University approved the hiring of three more investigators for the Office of Inclusion and Equity, which investigates Title IX complaints filed against faculty and staff members.

The email was also sent by Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly and Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost. 

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University could not give a more specific deadline as to when the outside experts would begin their review because of the lengthy contracting process. 

The email was sent after students complained about the University’s faculty sexual misconduct policies during the student organized protest “Sit in for Student Safety” on Oct. 25. Students at the sit-in protested the employment of English professor Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar, integrative biology and philosophy professor.

A University investigation in 2018 found Hutchison violated UT’s sexual misconduct policy by 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.

Protest organizers said they met with University leadership on Nov. 1 after the sit-in. Fenves said in the email that UT leadership will meet with the student leaders again next week. 

“The University of Texas at Austin is committed to protecting the safety of all students and community members,” Fenves said. “We look forward to working together to address these significant issues.”