After an external review of its sexual misconduct policies and pressure from the local community concerned about the lack of adequate penalties, the University of Texas at Austin plans to – in most cases – fire employees found to have committed sexual misconduct, The Dallas Morning News reported.
UT-Austin President Greg Fenves sent an email to the university community on Monday announcing the policy changes.
“Sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and interpersonal violence will not be accepted at the University of Texas at Austin,” he wrote. “If a faculty or staff member commits these acts, the consequences will be clear.”
Students called for the firing of professors with histories of sexual misconduct, and they protested after the university did not act. Fenves told students at a town hall meeting in January that the university decided whether to terminate employees found to have committed such acts based on how much of a safety threat they presented and the facts of each case, the newspaper reported.
The new policy will make firings the presumptive punishment when sexual misconduct is committed. The legal firm Husch Blackwell, which studied the issue for the school, said the university should define the four forms of sexual misconduct listed by Fenves as clearly as possible, the Morning News reported.
“We recommend that the university clarify that not all violations of its sex discrimination policy are equally egregious,” the firm’s report states.
When employees are found to have violated UT’s sexual misconduct policy, but are not fired due to mitigating factors, the university said it will make information about the misconduct publicly available. The university previously only released summaries of such misconduct through public information requests, the newspaper reported.
The Morning News noted that the school’s hand was forced by Senate Bill 212, which now requires mandatory reporting of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence at Texas universities.