Sunday, February 3, 2013
Board of Regents discusses Applewhite
By Carter Strickland
AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas system’s Board of Regents went behind closed doors Sunday to discuss matters Texas was unable to keep behind closed doors.
The board met by phone for two hours with only regents and UT systems personnel and discussed the recent revelations of two separate sexual relationships with adult students by football coach Major Applewhite and former track coach Bev Kearney.
Two hours following the meeting, UT systems chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa and Board of Regents chair Gene Powell released a statement which said, in part, that there would be a review of all policies in place concerning student and employee relationships.
"The review will include policies concerning disciplinary actions and procedures as well as compliance with policies for immediate notification of institution administration and the Board of Regents whenever and wherever policies are violated," the statement read.
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Kearney, 55, admitted her relationship nearly 11 years after the fact and resigned two months after being placed on unpaid leave by the university. Applewhite, who is married, reported his affair to athletics director DeLoss Dodds weeks after it happened in 2009, had his pay frozen for nearly a year, was sent to one mandatory counseling session to determine if further counseling was necessary and had a letter of reprimand put in his personnel file. Applewhite’s affair was made public Friday night after a Freedom of Information request led to the release of the aforementioned letter of reprimand.
The board, which was, until recently, kept in the dark about the Applewhite affair, discussed Kearney's and Applewhite’s situations, the punishment meted out and the legal ramifications that might be facing the university.
UT systems chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa and Board of Regents chair Gene Powell declined to comment following the meeting.
"I've already made my comments," Cigarroa said alluding to his statement from Friday night.
The statement released later that afternoon said that the UT system would reach out to national experts to assist in a review of current policy. Additionally in the coming days the UT system will release a timeline for any such changes as well as more details.
Applewhite, who has twice been promoted since the affair, most recently to quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller in December 2012, is not expected to receive further punishment. The 34-year-old former Texas quarterback is being represented by Houston lawyer Joe Jamail, a prominent booster who has donated more than $37 million to the university and has millions more of his $1.5 billion fortune earmarked for donation, as his attorney. Jamail, who has two statues and five structures bearing his or his late wife’s name on campus, also represents Texas coach Mack Brown.
Kearney has retained Austin-based attorney Derek Howard. They have not taken or disclosed any legal action they might pursue against Texas.
The university does not strictly prohibit but does strongly discourage consensual relationships between employees with direct teaching, supervisory, advisory or evaluative responsibility over students. If such a relationship does occur, the university employee, "has the obligation to disclose its existence to an immediate supervisor and cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the supervision, evaluation, teaching, grading, or advising of the employee, student and/or student employee," the university’s policy statement reads.
That policy was adopted into Texas Handbook of Operating Procedures in 2001, a year prior to the start of Kearney’s relationship with a student.
"The rule she was fired for was not having the relationship, but failing to report. Ten years ago when this relationship started, that rule was brand new," Howard told ABCNews prior to the public disclosure of Applewhite’s affair. "We think there will be evidence that men who do this are not treated the same as this woman has been treated. That's gender and racial bias if white males engaged in same behavior."
This is the third sex scandal to hit the Texas athletics department in the past two years. Texas paid $400,000 to an athletics administrative assistant in October of 2011 to settle a sexual harassment suit. The suit centered on Cleve Bryant, Brown's longtime associate athletics director for football operations. Bryant was fired in March of 2011 after a university investigation revealed he had made repeated sexual advances toward a female administrative assistant over a two-year period.