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UT regents review disciplinary actions on inappropriate relationships

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Two relationships between UT athletic staff members and students now has the board of regents reviewing disciplinary actions.

"If you're a trainer and you're interested in upward mobility, it's gonna have a big difference in your success if Applewhite's with your or against you and that's the power dynamic," said Jim Harrington, the founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

With nearly four decades of experience as a civil rights attorney, nothing surprises him anymore.

The most recent case to come to light is co-offensive coordinator, major Applewhite's admission to "inappropriate consensual behavior with an adult student, one time, during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl."

Harrington said, "You have this woman coach, African-American coach, that has a brilliant record and was in line to get this enormous pay boost versus Applewhite, you know, who also has been promoted and just sort of, you know, hit on the wrist a bit for what he did."

Former women's track and field head coach, Bev Kearney, was put on paid leave last November and resigned in January in lieu of being fired after admitting to having a consensual relationship with a Texas track athlete in 2002.

"There's always been a double standard, historically, for how men and women are treated for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," Harrington said. "There is absolutely no way you can come up with any other conclusion other than women, or a woman, in this case is disproportionately, unfairly treated."

According to a statement released by UT, the former UT quarterback had to undergo counseling and his pay was put on freeze for about a year.

Applewhite has since been promoted and received a pay raise.

"You would have to look at race in this situation and quite often, in discrimination cases, being an African-American woman or a minority woman, is a double whammy," said Harrington.

The UT student handbook does not prohibit relationships between students and staff, just "strongly discourages" them.

Harrington said, "I've always been amazed, utterly amazed, that there haven't been really good policies for a long, long time."

Nor does it outline how discipline will be determined.

Harrington said, "When there are no clear cut criteria then, you're going to end up with the presumption of discrimination when you have this kind of disproportionate treatment."

The UT board of regents recently held an emergency meeting to discuss "legal issues concerning individual athletics personnel."

Harrington said, "It shows that the regents are not on top of the ball...and haven't been for years."

He says if clearer, more streamlined guidelines were in place, UT wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

"Frankly, I think the reason there aren't clearer guidelines is because there's a lot of abuse of relationships and I think there would be a lot of backlash," said Harrington.

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