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UT responds to student protest about professors who violated sexual misconduct policies

UT students want transparency and the university is trying to give it to them.

AUSTIN, Texas — Some University of Texas students are angry and UT leaders want them to know they've heard their concerns. 

Dozens of students protested outside the provost office in late October after they found out two professors, who are still teaching, violated sexual misconduct policies. 

UT posted a letter, which stated that they were planning to make changes.

"When you have things like this that affect so many students, it's great to see what kind of strength the Longhorn community has on the student side of things," said Alyssa Ashcraft, a UT senior and organizer of the sit-in protest.

Ashcraft said many are frustrated with the university allowing the professors, who violated the policies, to still teach in classrooms. 

"When the course schedule came out, we all saw that they were still on it," said Ashcraft. "We got to talking and decided to set a time and a date and a location for a sit-in to kind of make sure students knew about this issue and registration happened and hopefully get a university response."

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UT students stage sit-in protest on campus

UT did respond, but not until after kids signed up for classes. 

Executive Vice President and Provost Maurie McInnis responded in detail about three issues: transparency, publishing names and terminating faculty members.

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McInnis said in the letter UT plans to "hire an outside expert to review UT's Title IX procedures and policies." The letter continues "As that process unfolds, please know that we all share common goals: that all UT students feel safe — and are safe. With these goals in mind, I believe we can work together to make a better university."

You can read the full letter here

"We had wished it was sent out earlier and perhaps through a main channel, such as an email, to all students because UT news is something you have to seek up yourself," said Angela Kang, UT senior and sit-in organizer.

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Kang and Ashcraft also wished it was more clear about how UT will protect students in the future. 

"This is a issue that affects students, faculty, administrators, so it is a conversation that I believe is going to continue to move forward," said Kang.

Kang and Ashcraft said they're trying to organize a town hall so more students can join the fight. 

UT sent KVUE a statement after this story aired:

We continue to listen to the student’s concerns and are committed to protecting the safety of all students and community members. Our leadership is regularly meeting with students to discuss these issues and find solutions to their concerns. Additionally, we will soon hire a team of outside experts to examine our processes surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct and work to bring further clarity to our procedures.

The university stated it sent out an email to the campus community on the matter:

Dear UT Community, 

In recent months and days, students have called for the university to evaluate and revise its sexual misconduct policies. UT leadership met with student leaders to discuss these issues last week, shared more information with the campus and will meet again with the same group next week. These are important conversations for our entire university community. 

As you may know, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 212 this spring, which increases the requirements for universities to report incidents of sexual misconduct. These new reporting requirements, along with the calls for action from our students, provide us with an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at how UT handles and communicates about misconduct allegations.

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. We hope to finalize our agreement with them in the coming weeks. To supplement this review and strengthen our evaluation efforts, the university is also assembling a working group of faculty members, staff members and students — including those who participated in last week’s meeting — to provide internal perspectives and analysis. 

Further, the university recently approved the hiring of three additional investigators in the Office for Inclusion and Equity (OIE). This will double the number of full-time investigators in OIE, which investigates complaints against faculty and staff members.

The University of Texas at Austin is committed to protecting the safety of all students and community members. When we receive allegations of misconduct, investigators review all the information they receive, and the university strives for an equitable outcome that respects due process and the safety of our community. We look forward to working together to address these significant issues.

Sincerely,

Gregory L. Fenves, President

Maurie McInnis, Executive Vice President & Provost

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

You can find that message here.      

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