Timeline: University, student response to Coleman Hutchison, Sahotra Sarkar

Lauren Grobe

Students held four protests this semester against faculty sexual misconduct and the continued employment of English associate professor Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar, an integrated biology and philosophy professor. Both professors are scheduled to teach classes in the spring of 2020 after they were temporarily suspended by the University for violating sexual misconduct policies. 

Here is the timeline of of Sarkar and Hutchison’s cases and the response by students and the University to faculty sexual misconduct. 

Students and student employees file anonymous Title IX complaints against Sarkar, according to a summary provided by the University. According to the complaints, Sarkar solicited nudes, invited students to nude beaches, held academic meetings in bars and had conversations in class of a sexual nature that made students uncomfortable. 

OCTOBER 25, 2016
Sarkar responds to the Office of Inclusion and Equity’s investigation and acknowledges he may have created an uncomfortable lab environment, but quickly implemented changes, according to his letter. He did confirm going to a nude beach for field work and invited a student with him. He denies taking nude photos of students or asking for nudes. 

OIE finds Sarkar in violation of sexual misconduct policies. Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost, suspends Sarkar from teaching, advising or conducting research on campus for one semester and places him on half-time leave, according to the investigation summary.

Anonymous complaints are filed through the University’s Compliance Services Reporting Hotline against Hutchison, according to an investigation summary provided by the University. The complaints allege that Hutchison sexually harassed one graduate student and four more students were subject to sexual misconduct. 

APRIL 2018
OIE finds Hutchison failed to disclose a relationship with a student and made inappropriate comments to graduate students. According to the OIE investigation, he violated a sexual misconduct policy, sex discrimination and sexual harassment policy, consensual relationship policy, nondiscrimination policy and a prohibition of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, interpersonal violence and stalking policy.

JUNE 2018
McInnis suspends Hutchison for two years and prohibits him from supervising graduate students alone during his suspension. According to a letter sent by McInnis, Hutchison said the disciplinary action is “both appropriate and proportionate.”

The University removes Hutchison from the fall 2018 and spring 2019 course schedule after it receives public criticism.

APRIL 2019
The University schedules Hutchison to teach two undergraduate English classes in fall 2019.

OCTOBER 16, 2019
The University releases the Spring 2020 course schedule, and Sarkar and Hutchison are listed as teaching undergraduate courses. 
OCTOBER 25, 2019
Around 60 students hold the first Sit-In for Student Safety outside the provost’s office to demand the termination of Sarkar and Hutchison and a clear listing of professors investigated for sexual misconduct. 

OCTOBER 30, 2019
In the University’s first statement regarding the protest, McInnis announces the University will be hiring outside experts to review the University’s Title IX policies. 

NOVEMBER 7, 2019
UT President Gregory Fenves sends out a campuswide email referencing the hiring of outside experts and announces the University will be forming an internal working group to review sexual misconduct policies. 

NOVEMBER 8, 2019
About 20 students hold a second sit-in outside the Provost’s office to call for a campuswide email explicitly naming Hutchison and Sarkar and an apology for employing professors found guilty of sexual misconduct. 

NOVEMBER 19, 2019
In a campuswide email, Fenves says the Misconduct Working Group will consist of graduate students, faculty and staff, and that membership will be finalized in December. He also announces the hiring of law firm Husch-Blackwell as the outside experts to review the University’s Title IX policies. 

NOVEMBER 20, 2019
Students hold a third sit-in outside the Provost’s office and request a universitywide report of faculty found guilty of misconduct, a student-led town hall, more investment into interpersonal violence prevention and the creation of a restorative justice program.

NOVEMBER 21, 2019

Eight protesters interrupt Sarkar’s Environmental Ethics class to demand the termination of Sarkar and pass out fliers with information about the complaints filed against him. According to a statement from the University, Sarkar called the UT Police Department, but the disturbance was over when the officers arrived and no criminal investigation was pursued.

DECEMBER 1, 2019

Previous protest organizers form The Coalition Against Sexual Misconduct, the official group that will host future protests and a town hall to discuss faculty sexual misconduct.

DECEMBER 6, 2019
Students hold a fourth protest outside the Tower and demand the University release a report with the names, courses and actions of professors found guilty of sexual misconduct, an explanation of how the University decides sanctions for sexual misconduct, a restorative justice program and more on campus confidential advocates.

A student-led town hall will be held on Jan. 27, where University administration and students will discuss sexual misconduct policies, McInnis said. The Misconduct Working Group will also issue its recommendations in April, according to the group’s website.