AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Texas at Austin will soon be changing its sexual misconduct policies following a review.
UT President Gregory Fenves announced the changes in a letter to the UT Austin community, stating that there will be three major changes once new policies are in place.
"Sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and interpersonal violence will not be accepted at The University of Texas at Austin," Fenves said in the letter. "If a faculty or staff member commits these acts, the consequences will be clear."
The changes include streamlining resources offered to survivors for effective support, terminating any UT faculty or staff member found to have committed sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or interpersonal violence after a thorough investigation, and compiling and making publicly available information about UT employees found to have engaged in misconduct but were not terminated because of mitigating factors.
The changes come after a four-month comprehensive review of the university's sexual misconduct policies done by the Husch Blackwell firm. The firm provided Fenves with recommended policy changes "designed to better support survivors, provide clear disciplinary guidelines and improve communication with the campus community," said Fenves in the letter.
Last month following a forum to discuss sexual misconduct at UT Austin, Fenves authorized hiring two more Title IX investigators to supplement six already on staff. Before that, UT Austin released information on sexual misconduct involving faculty, staff, and researchers between November 2017 to December 2019. The release followed a year's worth of activism from UT students, and a records request from FOX 7 Austin.
READ THE FULL LETTER BELOW:
Dear UT Community,
During the past four months, consultants from the Husch Blackwell firm met with UT Austin students, staff members and faculty members and led a comprehensive review of the university’s sexual misconduct policies. The first phase of the review is now complete. Husch Blackwell has presented me with recommended policy changes that are designed to better support survivors, provide clear disciplinary guidelines and improve communication with the campus community.
I have accepted all of these recommendations. We are now beginning the implementation of the recommendations, and you will have opportunities to provide input as part of UT’s procedure for instituting new policies.
When new policies are in place, there will be three major changes:
- UT will streamline the resources we offer to survivors to support them effectively.
- If any UT faculty or staff member is found — after a thorough investigation — to have committed sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or interpersonal violence, the presumptive punishment will be termination. These are the four categories of misconduct included in Texas Senate Bill 212 that require reporting of violations at universities.
- If there is a case in which a UT employee is found to have engaged in one of these four types of misconduct and is not terminated because of mitigating factors, that information will be compiled and made publicly available, while preserving the privacy of the survivors.
As we have evaluated our policies in recent months, we have also heard from the campus community about the importance of helping survivors to heal and offering alternative resolutions where appropriate. To accomplish this, we will consult with experts, including those in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, to introduce restorative justice as an alternative approach.
Sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and interpersonal violence will not be accepted at The University of Texas at Austin. If a faculty or staff member commits these acts, the consequences will be clear. I thank the Misconduct Working Group for their work in recent months, and I am grateful to the students and survivors who participated in our productive forum in January.
Gregory L. Fenves