By Serena Ayers
On January 9, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) released the names of 17 faculty and staff who had violated the school’s sexual misconduct policies since November 2017 despite previous claims that they would withhold them. UT is expected to host a forum with its President Gregory Fenves on the topic of sexual misconduct on January 27.
UT originally promised to release the names in December of 2019, but backpedaled after enraged students held a protest at the home of Thomas Hubbard, a professor known for being an open advocate for pedophilia. The report was conveniently released during winter break, a time when most students are off campus.
According to the list, of the three professors found guilty of violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy, Coleman Hutchison (Department of English), Johann Hofmann (Department of Integrative Biology), and Kevin Dalby (College of Pharmacy), all three are still currently employed by the University. The report also shared violations occurring across other levels UT’s staff, such as service workers employed on campus.
The findings included in the report are so vague that they effectively protect the professors named. In the case of all three professors the complaints center around “inappropriate comments of a sexual nature,” with Hutchison also found guilty of sexual harassment and Hofmann of “trying to start a consensual relationship” with a graduate student. Incendiary encourages any victims or witnesses to the aforementioned misconduct to reach out so that we may share your story.
Multiple times throughout the report the Office of Inclusion and Equity minimizes the misconduct of professors by noting that some of the sexual or romantic relationships were “consensual,” without acknowledging the incredible power differential and authority these professors have over students. While the report focuses on technical violations such as “failure to report” relationships to the administration, it glosses over the ways that graduate students, who must maintain a good working relationship with faculty in their department, are coerced and pressured by these predatory professors.
Absent from the report is philosophy professor Sahotra Sarkar, since the report only includes incidents that were investigated and met their criteria for misconduct since November 2017. With one of the most notable targets of student organizing missing, it is unclear how many other sexually predatory professors found guilty of violations before the cutoff are still working at the University.
The administration had previously resisted a Freedom of Information Act request for the names of the faculty and staff in violation of sexual misconduct policy, citing fear for the safety of those listed. The Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly also announced that the school would be working with Austin Police Department to apprehend students involved in the protest at Hubbard’s, focusing on Fire the Abusers, a group of women students who have taken a militant stance against predatory professors and rejected collaboration with the bourgeois administration.
Knowing that prosecuting women students protesting professors would be a bad public relations move, UT has instead retaliated against organizers in the wider community who held an anti-gentrification protest at the Blanton Museum on campus. Two months following an action against a gentrifying arts non-profit in which the museum itself discouraged police action, three community members have been charged with alleged trespassing and meeting disruption.
With campus organizing on the rise at UT Austin, the school will continue to lash out against those who stand up to its reactionary administration while making concessions to save face. Although the University claims these latest developments are in the interest of “transparency,” this release of names, along with a new law (SB212) creating stricter regulations around the reporting of sexual misconduct, demonstrate that combative protests and the rejection of respectability politics has forced the hand of administrators.
While these concessions will likely be welcomed by women students, they stop short of taking any real action against those found guilty of sexual misconduct. This, along with the intensified repression of student and community activists, indicate that the University is merely doing damage control to stem the rising tide of confrontational actions and will continue to prioritize its own interests over those of students as long as they can get away with it.
A spokesperson for Fire the Abusers told Incendiary, “It’s not a ‘win’ that the university decided to release this document. UT is a business at the end of the day. We’re up against a university that cares deeply about the image it sells to the public and will try to continue suppressing students who organize together against the predatory professors employed by UT. Transparency will never be enough.”