UT Students Warn Peers About Professors with Sexual Misconduct Violations
By ANDRÉS GARCIA
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — With summer and fall registration underway, some students at the University of Texas are warning their peers of classes taught by professors who violated the school’s sexual misconduct policies.
Sophomore Kaya Epstein posted a Twitter thread that identified professors with university-documented records of sexual misconduct who will teach in the fall 2021 semester. She wants the university to be more proactive in sharing this information.
“It should not be the responsibility of students to put so much time and energy into protecting each other,” Epstein said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Epstein was active in on-campus events to warn others, especially new students. Although the “what” remained the same, she says the “how” changed drastically in light of the pandemic.
“There’s a huge disconnect between years that I think has been exacerbated by being online, not holding campus events,” Epstein said.
One of the professors mentioned in Epstein’s Twitter thread faced accusations of making inappropriate remarks to female graduate students in 2017, as well as failing to disclose a consensual relationship with a student. The university found the faculty member in violation of sexual misconduct policies and issued a temporary suspension.
Another professor served a semester-long suspension following complaints that he solicited lewd photos from students in 2016.
Those faculty members will teach classes in the upcoming fall semester.
Senior Sara Jane Ross said university officials failed to sufficiently inform students of the professors’ returns to campus following their suspensions.
“It’s kind of a running joke at UT that if there’s a crime or emergency, you’re going to find out on twitter before you find out from UTPD,” Ross said about the University of Texas Police Department.
Although sexual misconduct records and reports are available to students, they are only attainable through open records requests that must be approved by the university.
After an eruption of student protests in 2019, the University hired Austin-based law firm Husch-Blackwell for guidance in accountability and communication. The law firm made several policy change recommendations to the University in collaboration with a working group of students and faculty.
The university adopted several of the recommended policy changes .
UT spokesperson Shilipa Barke said “As it has done in the past, the university will move to terminate faculty and staff members whose violations constitute a safety threat.” She emphasized that not all violations warrant termination.
Although she said the actions taken by the university are a step in the right direction, Ross feels the administration is not doing enough to protect students.
“Obviously I feel like removal is what is necessary,” Ross said.
Epstein and Ross both wish the school would regularly release the names of professors found in violation of sexual misconduct policies, rather than leave it up to open records requests.
They encourage their peers to avoid enrolling in their classes.
“If no one is signing up for their classes, UT is going to realize people don’t want this person here,” Ross said.