University of Texas, Austin professor Sahotra Sarkar was found guilty of sexual misconduct in 2017. Students gathered to protest his continuing tenure with the college.
A group of student protestors carrying a large red banner into a classroom at the University of Texas, Austin on Thursday, November 21. The students had gathered in order to confront Sahotra Sarkar, a professor of philosophy and integrative biology. Sarkar, who was found guilty of violating the university sexual misconduct policies, was allowed to continue teaching after being suspended for a semester. The protestors chanted until Sarkar was forced to exit the classroom, The Statesman reports. It is at present unclear why Sarkar was permitted to remain a member of the University of Texas, Austin faculty following his misconduct.
These student protesters chased a professor accused of sexual misconduct out of his classroom pic.twitter.com/LySFL6Lry4— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 25, 2019
The students were wearing sunglasses in order to protect their identities and carrying a large red banner. A video, filmed by one of the protestors, displays the group abruptly entering the classroom where Sarkar and numerous students were present. Sarkar was teaching at the time. One student affirms in the video, "Sahotra Sarkar, we stand alongside other enraged women who are disgusted by your actions towards students." A separate video displays Sarkar making a phone call while attempting to leave the classroom. Initially, he was blocked by protestors. Nonetheless, he eventually makes his way outside the classroom and into the hallway while stile on a phone call. The group of protestors follows the professor, chanting relentlessly, "When sexist pigs exploit their power, we fight back and make them cower."
This classroom interruption was only part of many weeks of sit-ins and rallies students organized in protest of the professor. The group is also protesting several other faculty members similarly accused of or found guilty of violating the University of Texas' sexual misconduct policies. According to official university documents, Sarkar was found guilty of violating these policies in 2017. Students had lodged complaints claiming that he had invited them to swim with him at nude beaches, asked them to pose nude for photographs, and organized numerous school-related meetings at bars. He was thus suspended from teaching for a semester.
It remains unclear how long the interruption lasted before Sarkar walked out or if the student protestors received punishment for their activism. A spokesman for the University of Texas stated that the school as a policy does not comment on the individual punishment of students. However, the protestors could face disciplinary action in accordance with the university's institutional rules. In a statement released shortly after the incident took place, the University of Texas spokeswoman Shilpa Bakre affirmed, "UTPD received a 911 call of a disruption in a classroom this morning at Waggener Hall. When officers responded, there was no longer a disruption taking place. There is no current criminal investigation. The university respects students’ freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate, but speech cannot impede the mission of the university." The case is ongoing, but it is clear that the faculty members accused or guilty of sexual misconduct should be the ones facing punishment - not the students protesting their right to a safe learning environment.