Mar. 30, 2016
Dear UT Community,
When incidents of hateful and violent behavior occur in our community, the university has a responsibility to denounce them, to seek justice — and seek it quickly — and to prevent similar behavior from occurring.
Our community was confronted with such behavior last month when several men threw bottles and used racial epithets toward one of our students in the West Campus area. Austin police charged two of them with deadly conduct and identified one of the alleged attackers as a UT student.
As I wrote to a group of student leaders on Feb. 26, soon after the attack, there is absolutely no place in our campus community for that type of behavior. It does not reflect the values of our university or our students and faculty members. I will not tolerate such hateful acts.
The university’s Student Judicial Services has been actively addressing this matter as it relates to UT students, based on our current institutional rules and timelines. Some of these rules, however, make it difficult to resolve the issues quickly and have revealed the need for us to improve our policies, particularly with incidents of hatred and violence.
We are committed to doing better in quickly resolving incidents that put our students in danger.
I have directed the Dean of Students and Vice President for Legal Affairs to update university policies to give the dean the authority to expedite the investigative process into allegations of acts of actual or threatened violent conduct.
The updated policies will also give the dean the ability to impose interim suspensions on students who are accused of actual or threatened violence. In all such cases, the dean will look at an individual’s conduct, not speech. The updated policies will continue to provide appropriate due process to any students accused of wrongdoing.
The dean had been reviewing our polices for several months, and this recent episode highlighted the need to make these changes immediately. We will work closely with UT System to have them approved promptly.
The university remains firmly committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment in which every student feels he or she belongs. We will not waver from those efforts.
Gregory L. Fenves