UT must prioritize students, not predatory professors

Zachary Price

The allegations that Coleman Hutchison committed sexual misconduct against his students first surfaced publicly in October of 2017. That fall, the English department held a town hall for graduate students upset over the process, one the students considered a complete failure. Now, with more than two years to consider the situation, UT administration still seems ill-equipped to answer why Hutchison is on the course schedule for next semester. 

Every bureaucracy has some level of incompetence. This runs deeper than that. UT administration has known for years now that Hutchison displayed a consistent pattern of sexual misconduct against graduate students. Through every step of this process, UT has shown it would rather endanger its female students than punish predatory male professors. 

In the course of writing this column, I tweeted a link to an anonymous Google Form asking UT students to tell me about times UT employees had made them uncomfortable. In response, I heard about professors standing so close to their students that they breathed on them, TA’s asking out their students and a now-retired professor making racist statements and giving a back massage to a female student while she was taking an exam. 

Per one former Hutchison student, “he should not be on the UT campus. The fact that he’s making $120K a year while grad students are trying to make ends meet at $14K is nauseating. He shouldn’t be allowed. F— that s—. He should be working at Best Buy.” 

Parker Chambers was a sophomore resident assistant in the fall of 2018 when a student he knew told him about her experience with a male professor at UT. During the course of a normal email exchange about making up class assignments, he repeatedly called her “beautiful” and asked her to go out with him. She originally laughed off the emails as an awkward situation, but eventually expressed her discomfort over being sexually harassed by her professor. Even after she left his class, he continued to email her, asking her to come over to his class. 

As a mandatory reporter under UT guidelines, Chambers filed a Title IX report through University Housing and Dining on her behalf. The student was too afraid that the professor might “do something to hurt her” and declined to pursue the case. Chambers says he never heard back from UHD or the Title IX Office. The professor still teaches undergraduates, despite a reputation beyond this case for harassing female students. 

The current round of student protests against Hutchison and Dr. Sahotra Sarkar, who has also been found in violation of sexual misconduct policy, have been an incredible display of student power. But I’m concerned UT administration will fire these two professors and declare their job finished. Provost Maurie McInnis has said that her office has dealt with 11 cases of inappropriate professor contact in the last four years. There were 131 complaints filed by students against UT professors last year alone. 

UT isn’t properly investigating when students speak out. UT isn’t adequately punishing its professors when they sexually harass students. And UT isn’t protecting its students, including victims of sexual assault. Fire Hutchison and Sarkar. And then do a hell of a lot more than that.

Price is a government senior.