Texas Workforce Commission

To better understand student earning and debt after graduation, the UT System will be gathering data about students who are one year and five years out of school and publish the findings on a new website, seekUT. 

Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for the UT System Office of Strategic Initiatives, said her office was responsible for creating the seekUT site.

“I knew that there was a need for us to look at what happens to our students after they graduate,” Huie said. 

Thomas Melecki, director of Student Financial Services, was a member of the task force that led to seekUT’s creation. 

“I do think they did a really nice job with it,” Huie said. “This is a tool that, at least, could suggest what might be an affordable level of borrowing, especially if a student uses this in conjunction with some other tools that are provided by the U.S. Department of Education.” 

Huie said her office partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to acquire the data available on the website. According to Huie, employers in Texas are required to file information about every employee’s wages to the Texas Workforce Commission. 

“We developed an agreement with our legal counsel within [the UT System] and within the workforce commission so that we could match the unemployment insurance with the student records so we could find out, of these students [who] graduated, where are they working and in what fields and how much money are they making, one and five years later,” Huie said. 

According to Huie, seekUT only provides information about students who find employment in Texas following their graduation, but not those who venture out of the state. 

“It’s very hard to track students once they leave the state,” Huie said. “We decided, for now, just to focus on Texas because we had such a large sample and sort of brainstorm and talk to different people about ways we might be able to capture the other students that leave at a later date.”

Melecki said users should be careful about the way they process the data available on seekUT. 

“Ten years of paying back a student loan, while difficult and could make me eat a lot of ramen noodles … might be a price worth paying for a 40- or 50-year career in something I love doing that I’ll get a great deal of satisfaction out of,” Melecki said, as an example. 

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field coach, is alleging she was “singled out and treated differently” than her male, non-African American counterparts, according to her filed complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I believe that I was subjected to a severely hostile work environment and constructively discharged by forcing me to resign in lieu of being fired because of my race, color and gender,” Kearney said in the complaint.

In her complaint, Kearney alleges she was publicly demeaned and falsely accused of NCAA violations by Bubba Thornton, men’s track and field head coach; she was harassed and her complaints were ignored by administrators; she was not given salary raises granted to other coaches; and she was told she was being fired for violating an “unwritten” policy, despite colleagues not receiving the same treatment for similar acts.

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, said he filed the complaint March 12 with the “Civil Rights and Discrimination Division” of the Texas Workforce Commission. The commission has 180 days to investigate the complaint after which Kearney has a right to sue. 

“Coach Kearney’s allegations of discrimination will be reviewed thoroughly and responded to according to [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and Texas Workforce Commission procedures,” said Patricia Ohlendorf, the University’s Vice President for Legal Affairs, in a statement last week.

Kearney resigned in January after being told the University was prepared to fire her for a having a consensual relationship with a former student-athlete in 2002. In the complaint, she cites the University’s handling of an incident concerning football offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as a “glaring example” of differing treatment. Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” in 2009. Applewhite’s salary was suspended for a year following the incident, but he has since received promotions and raises.

The complaint also levies several allegations of harassment by Thornton, who she alleges would speak negatively about her character, professionalism and coaching abilities to others in the athletic department. She said while several administrators including head athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky acknowledged the harassment, they did nothing to stop it.

A pair of 2004 letters sent from Kearney to Dodds highlights a longstanding friction between Kearney and Thornton. In the letters, obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, Kearney alleges Thornton offered her job to a coach at another university and would speak openly about becoming head coach of both men’s and women’s track and field programs.

The complaint is filed against the entire University, not just the athletic department. In 2011, a former UT employee, Glyn Rogers, filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission alleging racial and retaliatory discrimination specifically against the athletic department, according to documents obtained by the Texan through the Texas Public Information Act. UT spokesman Gary Susswein  said the case was dismissed by the Texas Workforce Commission and no lawsuits were filed.

Additional reporting by Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Kearney files to sue University". 

This article was edited for accuracy after its original posting. Kearney will be allowed to sue after 180 days have elapsed from the time of the filing regardless of the results of an investigation.

Bev Kearney, former UT women’s track and field head coach, has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Texas Workforce Commission discrimination charge against the University. Kearney, the most successful coach in UT athletics history, was the first African-American to serve as a head coach at UT. After admitting to having “an intimate consensual relationship” with a female student-athlete on her team in 2002, she resigned on Jan. 5, as the University was preparing to begin her termination process.

Although the University appears to have disciplined Kearney in a manner consistent with its own policy, the allegations highlight a lack of transparency in the University’s handling of student-staff relationships.

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, told the Austin American-Statesman that the complaint will reference UT football’s co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, a white male who admitted to an inappropriate consensual relationship with a female student trainer in 2009. Applewhite was discovered to have disclosed his relationship promptly and had his salary frozen as a result, after an open records request by the Texan brought UT Athletics documentation to light.

Howard said he filed the gender and race discrimination complaint on Kearney’s behalf Tuesday March 12. The TWC does not recognize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a type of employment discrimination. The EEOC and TWC will have 180 days to investigate the allegations, after which time Howard said he will file a lawsuit against the University, regardless of any decisions reached by the agencies. The University, pursuant to its Handbook of Operating Procedures’ nondiscrimination policy, does prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Race, gender and sexual orientation are not the only significant differences between the facts of the Kearney and Applewhite cases. Whereas Applewhite quickly informed his supervisor of his “inappropriate conduct,” Kearney failed to disclose her relationship, which under University policy left her “subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

In January, Howard told the Texan that the University doesn’t cite Kearney’s “failure to report the relationship as the reason for firing her.” Instead, Howard said, “It’s because she had the relationship, period.” Indeed, Patti Ohlendorf, UT’s vice president for legal affairs, cited a rationale absent from the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures for Kearney’s discipline: “In the case of a head coach and a student-athlete on his or her team, the University’s position is that that cannot be condoned in any event.”

Howard claims to know of at least 10 other instances of inappropriate relationships at UT. It remains to be seen whether Kearney was a victim of workplace discrimination. We hope that isn’t the case. But, allegations of discrimination aside, the University’s implementation of its policy is inadequate at best. The University risks the appearance of discriminatory and arbitrary enforcement if its policy is not made more transparent and realistic. Consensual student-staff relationships, a reality on our campus, have consequences too far-reaching to be dealt with haphazardly.

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, has filed a discrimination complaint against the University, according to her attorney, Derek Howard. 

She filed the complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, which will now conduct an investigation to see if there were any violations of the Texas Labor Code. The commission has 180 days from the filing date to investigate the complaint and determine whether Kearney has the right to sue the University.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, said the University will also begin reviewing the complaint.

“Coach Kearney’s allegations of discrimination will be reviewed thoroughly and responded to according to [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and Texas Workforce Commission procedures,” Ohlendorf said in a statement.

Kearney resigned in January after she was told the University was prepared to fire her because of a relationship she had with a student-athlete in 2002. 

The former student-athlete reported the relationship in October, after which Kearney was put on paid leave. Ohlendorf said in the statement Kearney was given an opportunity to provide her side of the story and appeal any decisions the University could make, but she chose to resign. 

Kearney and Howard contest that the University handled her situation differently than similar situations have been handled in the past. In February, a Texas Public Information Act request by the Daily Texan revealed football offensive coordinator Major Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl festivities. Applewhite’s salary was frozen for a year, but he was not fired.

Ohlendorf said the University reviews allegations and reports of unprofessional relationships on a case-by-case basis.

“As Coach Kearney was told by the University, the relationship that she had with the student-athlete is unprofessional and crosses the line of trust placed in the head coach for all aspects of the athletic program and the best interests of the student-athletes on the team,” she said in the statement.

Published on March 18, 2013 as "Former coach files discrimination suit". 

Kearney files employment discrimination complaint against University

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, has filed a discrimination complaint against the University, according to her attorney, Derek Howard.

The complaint has been filed with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, which will then conduct an investigation to see if there were any violations of the Texas Labor Code.

Kearney resigned in January after she was told the University was prepared to fire her because of a relationship she had with a student-athlete in 2002. The former student-athlete reported the relationship in October, after which Kearney was put on paid leave.

Kearney and Howard have said in the past that the way her situation was handled by the University is different from the way other situations have been handled.

The Texas Workforce Commission will have 180 days to investigate the complaint, after which it determines whether Kearney has the right to sue the University. 

Records from the Texas Workforce Commission indicate that unemployment rates across Texas have recently fallen to their lowest percentages since 2008, while unemployment rates in Austin slightly increased between November and December 2012.

“We report on the unemployment rate each month,” said Mark Lavergne, a spokesman for the Texas Workforce Commission. The commission, a state agency created to develop and promote the workforce, found that the state’s average unemployment rate for the last quarter of 2012 dropped below 7 percent — attributed to the addition of 260,800 jobs across Texas during 2012. 

The Texas Workforce Commission also monitors local unemployment. According to the commission’s combined report for Austin, Round Rock and San Marcos, even though the region has had a small increase of 0.1 percentage points in unemployment between November and December 2012, the area has fared well. The region’s 5 percent unemployment rate is still lower than Texas’ 6 percent rate and the national average of 7.6 percent.

The unemployment rate in Austin may continue to rise for the current quarter. 

According to Lavergne, it is important to note that the unemployment percentages that the Texas Workforce Commission releases for local areas like Austin are affected by seasonal changes, such as holiday hiring and students taking summer and winter jobs. 

“It is not uncommon to see a slight uptick in the unemployment for a local area around this time of year,” Lavergne said. “As students head back to school and staffs decrease their sizes after the holiday season, the unemployment rate will naturally grow.” 

Despite the recent increase in local unemployment, he said Austin’s economy has been improving. 

“Over the last year the Austin area has added 34,600 jobs — a 4.3 percent annual growth rate,” Lavergne said.  

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the accommodations and food service industries make up the largest number of job gains with 2,400 hires in 2012. However, jobs in government decreased with the loss of some 3,000 positions since the end of 2011.

So what does this mean for UT students graduating soon?

“I don’t think the general job market was too bad when I graduated,” said Ariel Min, a former UT journalism student who graduated in the spring of 2012. “But I think it was pretty difficult to find an entry-level job in journalism right off the bat in Austin.”

Min, who is now interning for a magazine in Dallas, said employment opportunities varied for students with different majors.

“A lot of my friends are in engineering or business, so I think it was a lot easier for them to find jobs,” Min said. 

Lavergne said Austin and Texas are great places to look for a job. 

“We can never predict the future 100 percent,” Lavergne said. “[But] from 2010 to 2020, our projections indicate that employment across all industries in Texas will grow by about 20 percent.”

Min said students should not be afraid to take advantage of unpaid opportunities and that the city’s job market looks promising.

“Don’t put yourself above unpaid internships,” Min said. “Utilize your faculty and resources well, and be aggressive in trying to get academic internships. Don’t give up. I still think Austin’s a great place to be right now.” 

Published on January 25, 2013 as "Unemployment rates fell in Texas in 2012". 

A steadily recovering Central Texas labor market may mean improved job opportunities for this year’s graduating class.

According to a report issued last week by the Texas Workforce Commission, more than 20,000 jobs have been created in the Austin area since this time last year.

Unemployment rates have also continued to fall from 6.8 percent last February to 6.1 percent, well below the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.

Except for shrinking government jobs, growth occurred in all 11 sectors of the local economy identified by the report. The largest job creation occurred in leisure and hospitality, and education and health services, which together account for almost 52 percent of the growth in the report.

In terms of employing the local population, the largest sectors of the Austin area economy are still information technology at 21 percent, utilities and transportation at 17 percent and professional business services at 15 percent.

Mark Lavergne, spokesman for the Texas Workforce Commission, said these were encouraging signs for people looking into the job market, and growth could open positions for students with college degrees.

“Just about all of the major industries have grown in the last year, and this is encouraging for any student taking that next step into the workforce,” Lavergne said. “It’s always preferable to graduate into a growing job market.”

Lavergne said further analysis was needed to determine whether the jobs being created required college degrees or if they were entry-level positions.

“Each industry includes jobs that require a variety of educational attainment, although you might see some more requirements in some industries than others,” Lavergne said.

The growing job market did not bring an easier job hunt to computer sciences senior Stephen Moore, who said he recently began an internship with a local software company.

“I found it very difficult and discouraging to try to get an internship in technology companies not only in Austin, but for any location,” Moore said. “Most companies did not want to offer an internship to anyone who had no prior work experience.”

This year, UT will graduate about 1,000 students from the Cockrell School of Engineering into Austin’s large information and professional sectors. The school has one of the highest number of graduates each year, said Jamie Brown, spokesperson for the Office of Student Financial Services.

Almost 90 percent of those students will want to find a job or attend graduate school shortly after graduation, said Michael Powell, director of the Engineering Career Assistance Center.

“A number of our students will wind up finding employment in Austin, roughly a quarter of them,” Powell said. “Certainly last year and this year the market improved for jobs.”

Due to job shortages following the onset of the 2008 recession, offers for graduating engineering students suffered to their lowest level during the 2009-2010 school year, Powell said.

“The job market has improved quite a bit since then,” Powell said. “Recruiting for engineering students went up about 20 percent last year, and we are continuing to see increases from last fall.”

Moore said companies that come to Austin usually have very large pools of possible employees, and have the option of hiring candidates aside from students.

“The best way to open up jobs for technology students is for companies to see internships as learning experiences and for opening up networking,” Moore said. “Knowing people who can put a good word in for you goes a long way.”

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as: Improving job market brings hope for grads on the hunt