Photo: Women students at the University of Texas at Austin confront Philosophy Professor Sahotra Sarkar during class for his history of sexual misconduct
By Kali Abbott
On November 21, a group of women students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) stormed into Professor Sahotra Sarkar’s classroom, interrupting his lesson to confront him for his history of sexually predatory behavior. They came bearing a large banner that read “Women Unite and Fight, Run Sexist Professors Off Campus!” and occupied the classroom as one woman gave a speech and others handed out flyers to students.
Sarkar is a philosophy professor who was granted paid leave for a semester after the university discovered he was asking students for nude photographs as well as inviting them to nude beaches and bars. After a brief suspension he is back to teaching at UT.
As the women marched into the room and upstaged him, Sarkar cowered in fear, calling the campus police to come help him. One woman bravely stood her ground and gave a speech directed both at him and the students. She called for Sarkar’s resignation and for the students to join them in organizing for women’s liberation. Afterward, the women led chants of “When Sexist Pigs Exploit their Power, We Fight Back And Make Them Cower!” as they ran Sakar out of his own classroom.
This action came after three well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective sit-ins that passively called for reform and transparency. Women at UT have grown tired of waiting around for an administration that does not care for them. They recognize that the accepted methods of making phone calls and signing petitions will be ignored, and have subsequently turned to more confrontational tactics.
The university’s lack of decisive action exposes their role of protecting abusive and predatory men on campus, especially professors like Sarkar, Colin Hutchison, and Richard Morrisett. As a bourgeois institution, UT looks out for its own interests first, and any concessions given students are to stall and pacify the righteous anger of women and do damage control in the face of public embarrassment.
This confrontation is another example of how revolutionary women are taking matters of sexism and abuse into their own hands through direct action. They are letting sexist abusers and predators on campus know that women are a force to be reckoned with and that these guilty professors will face their righteous anger if they attempt to continue teaching.