How did Fire the Abusers begin?
FTA began as a loose coalition between Popular Women’s Movement (PWM) and student protesters during the fall 2019 semester. Various groups of students organized sit-ins at the UT Austin provost’s office to protest the fact that 2 professors found guilty of sexual misconduct, Coleman Hutchison and Sahotra Sarkar, were on the course schedule for spring 2020. Members of PWM came to each sit in to encourage protesters to organize more militantly and directly confront the professors instead of the UT administration. FTA truly took shape after students from PWM and the sit-ins caused a disruption at Sahotra Sarkar’s classroom in November. After that, the organization became more formally structured as a militant, UT student-led movement.
How does Fire the Abusers fit in to the broader revolutionary struggle going on in Austin?
The creation of FTA would not have been possible without help from PWM, a militant, revolutionary organization fighting for the liberation of women from capitalism. Current and former UT students from PWM helped students who had never organized militantly before. We have also received help from the Defend Our Hoodz, a militant anti-gentrification group. All of our struggles intersect because we are all ultimately fighting against capitalist institutions that value money more than our lives.
What tactics have been the most effective at various stages of your organizing?
One of the main things we all agree on is that women can and should fight back against their oppressors. This basic belief underscores all of our organizing. Instead of begging institutions (like the UT administration or the cops) that don’t actually care about us to protect us from abusers, we are directly confronting predators by ourselves. Both of our actions so far (the disruption of Sahotra Sarkar’s classroom and the house demonstration against Thomas Hubbard) have involved direct confrontation of predators in front of people who deserve to know about that person’s history of abuse–in Sarkar’s case, his students, and in Hubbard’s case, his neighbors. Institutions like UT want us to deal with abusers quietly, through their own systems, by filing a Title IX complaint. This method is not only painful and drawn out for the complainant, but also allows the perpetrator to continue living his life normally. It allows the people around the abuser to remain ignorant of his actions, and it puts distance between the person the abuser thinks he is and the person the survivor knows him to be. Our method of direct confrontation simultaneously informs everyone around the abuser and forces the abuser to confront his own actions as reprehensible ones that he will never escape.
Are there lessons that you have learned from your actions that you think could be applied to other campuses?
UT is no different than any other large and powerful university. Their administration doesn’t care about its students, it only cares about money–and money comes from rich donors who won’t be as willing to donate if the school gets bad publicity. Appealing directly to the university will never obtain actual change from them, but doing something that draws attention to their neglect and greediness will force them to act in order to avoid losing money.
After a predator has been exposed what reactions have you had from the community?
We have had very positive reactions from the community after both of our demonstrations. At Hubbard’s demonstration, neighbors came out to support us and thank us. Our demonstration at Sarkar’s classroom reached national news, and inspired a similar demonstration at NYU against abusie professor Avital Ronell.
How do you aim to spread to other regions?
We are currently focusing on running predatory professors at UT Austin. However, we are happy to lend support and advice to similar organizations anywhere in the world.
Right now your work is mostly focused on campuses, do you work off campus as well? How is that work different?
We do not work off campus at the moment.
Do you have any advice for revolutionaries organizing on other campuses?
Directly confronting abusers sounds scary, but it’s incredibly effective and rewarding. Working together with your comrades, you have much more power than any of you would individually. It’s important for any group protesting to know their rights, have a solid plan, and trust in your comrades.
If people are interested in learning more or getting involved where can they reach you?
The can reach us on twitter or Instagram (our handle is @firetheabusers) on both or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.