Last June, the University of Texas found associate professor Coleman Hutchison had violated the University’s sexual misconduct policies after complaints by five graduate students.
Maybe the University forgot what happened. Let me remind you.
Most people in the English department knew Hutchison had sexual relationships with some of his students. He married one of them. Another wrote a piece for The Arkansas International in fall 2017, describing a relationship with Hutchison that began with a flirtatious response to an assignment and ended with her leaving academia to get away from him.
Hutchison had a reputation in the English graduate community. I wrote a piece about it in September. Of the dozen students I interviewed, most described his behavior as “creepy.” Some described specific behaviors, ranging from uncomfortable glances to overt sexual advances. Some graduate students felt that, as graduate advisor, Hutchison made funding choices based on his personal relationships with students. Some feared they were denied funding because they didn’t reciprocate his interest.
Students aren’t the only ones saying Hutchison behaved inappropriately. The Office for Inclusion and Equity agreed, and their investigation concluded that Hutchison had violated the sexual misconduct policies by making inappropriate comments to students and faculty, as well as the consensual relationship policy by failing to report his relationship with a student.
Hutchison admitted he made inappropriate comments to his students. In an email to some of his graduate students, Hutchison acknowledged that he violated University policy by “making a handful of inappropriate comments to graduate students.” In other words, sexual misconduct.
As the compliance investigation unfolded, Hutchison quietly moved from teaching graduates students to undergraduate students. I wrote about this with the rest of the editorial board last July. It looked like UT moved Hutchison to undergraduates when his reputation for sexual behavior became well-known within the graduate community. Maybe they thought he was less likely to behave inappropriately toward younger, more vulnerable undergraduates.
The ensuing backlash prompted UT to remove Hutchison from the course schedule, canceling the two classes he was supposed to teach. He didn’t appear on the course schedule for this spring either.
Now he’s scheduled to be back in the classroom. He’s scheduled to teach two seminar-style undergraduate classes, both of which are “designed to accommodate 35 or fewer students.” In small classes such as these, students have unrivaled access to their professors. And vice versa.
I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad idea. It shouldn’t be news to UT that putting someone they know has behaved inappropriately in front of a class of undergraduates is irresponsible.
Maybe Hutchison is listed on the course schedule by mistake. Maybe the University doesn’t understand how badly sexual misconduct hurts students. I don’t know.
But it sure looks like UT doesn’t care.
“The safety of students is always a paramount concern for the university. In this case, the university thoroughly investigated the allegations against Prof. Hutchison, found violations of university policy and disciplined him in accordance with those violations. The university does not believe he is a safety threat to students and would not allow him to teach were this otherwise. The provost’s sanctions administered last year did not prohibit him from teaching, just from sole-supervision of graduate students due to the specific nature of the findings against him,” University spokesperson J.B. Bird wrote in response to this piece.
Coleman Hutchison did not respond to a request for comment before this piece went to print.
Anderson is a Plan II and history junior from Houston. She is the editor-in-chief.