Due to the recent surfacing of the news that Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite had an inappropriate consensual relationship with a student back in 2009, University of Texas regents will reassess the school’s policy on relationships between students and teachers.
Applewhite reportedly engaged in a one-time, inappropriate, consensual relationship with a Texas student while the team was at the Fiesta Bowl in 2009. Major immediately brought the issue to UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds and disciplinary action was taken within the department. The regents’ review of university policy was brought on due to the Applewhite story coming going public, but it really has more to do with what happened to former Texas women’s head track coach Bev Kearney.
Kearney resigned almost a month ago while under investigation for a relationship she had with a student in her program in 2002. That relationship was also consensual, and as such one would think that perhaps Kearney should not have lost her job. This is why the issue is now being reviewed.
It appears that there was some major miscommunication between the regents and their legal staff when handling the Kearney situation. The regents, who have recently stated that Kearney was in the process of being fired prior to the investigation and her resignation, were led to believe that student-teacher relationships were absolutely impermissible. That isn’t however what university laws say.
According to rules at the Austin campus, all that has to happen is for the issue to be brought to the department head and an arrangement made for the student to be given a different teacher in order to avoid a conflict of interest. That is of course if the student was under instruction by that teacher, which was not the case with Applewhite. If that is the rule we are working off of, then Applewhite and Dodds did exactly as they should have.
However, UT System Rule 178, which applies to all 15 UT campuses and not just the flagship school in Austin, states that the regents must be informed. If that is the case, then Dodds should have told the regents about the issue with Applewhite in 2009. Clearly the fact that conflicting rules exist is a problem, and that is the primary reason that the regents will review the policies.
One thing that is clear is that none of the rules say that the instructor must resign or be fired, which is why eyebrows have been raised when looking at Kearney’s case. Yet, as I said before, the university maintains that she was already on her way out.
It is sad that it took this kind of situation for the big wigs with the deep pockets at Texas to realize that there was such a big problem within the rules that govern the University of Texas System. Hopefully the issue will be quickly ironed out in order to avoid future issues such as this.
On a closing note, the board did say that no further disciplinary action was planned for Applewhite, which is good news for the Texas football program.
Follow Spenser Walters on Twitter @SpenserWalters