March 2, 2020
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