UT System orders review of policy regarding employee-student relationships

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The UT System Board of Regents will begin a concentrated effort to review all policies concerning relationships between UT employees and students, according to a statement released by board chairman Gene Powell and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa on Sunday. 

Paul Foster, board vice chairman, will lead the efforts to study the relationship policies at all 15 UT institutions. 

“Our chief concern is and always will be the safety and welfare of the students at our 15 institutions,” Powell and Cigarroa said in the statement. “The No. 1 priority of all UT administrative leaders, faculty, staff and athletic personnel should be protecting our students and ensuring that their experience at any UT institution is a positive and safe one.”

Current System policy, which went into effect November 2012, categorizes allegations of sexual misconduct  as “significant events” that must be reported to the system “in a timely fashion.” According to the statement, the rule will be reviewed for possible strengthening. 

The regents met via telephone conference during a specially-scheduled meeting earlier Sunday to discuss legal issues related to individual athletics personnel and issues related to relationships between employees and students, generally. 

Also present were Cigarroa and Daniel Sharphorn, associate vice chancellor and deputy general counsel for the System. The meeting, which was scheduled to last approximately one hour, ended up lasting two-and-a-half hours. The last time the Board of Regents scheduled a meeting on a Sunday was Aug. 17, 1958. 

On Friday, Major Applewhite, offensive coordinator for the football team, and DeLoss Dodds, men’s head athletics director, released statements regarding a previously undisclosed incident of “inappropriate, consensual behavior” that occurred between Applewhite and an adult student during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl events. 

Applewhite’s salary was suspended for the duration of the calendar year, and he was ordered to schedule a session with a licensed professional counselor.

In January, former women’s track and field head coach Bev Kearney resigned, several months after admitting to an “intimate consensual relationship” with a student-athlete in the track and field program. The relationship began in 2002 and ended in 2005. 

According to a policy in the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, instituted by UT in 2001, all relationships must be disclosed to appropriate members of the University.

“The University strongly discourages consensual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, teachers and students and advisers and students,” the policy states. A failure to report the relationship will result in “disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”