Could Razorbacks' Bobby Petrino Could Be In Violation Of UA Handbook Policy On Sexual Harassment

by Chris Bahn  on Friday, Apr. 6, 2012 7:58 am  

Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino and Jessica Dorrell sign autographs for fans at the White County Razorback Club. Petrino and Dorrell, who was recently added to the football staff, were involved in a recent motorcycle wreck. Petrino was not forthcoming about Dorrell being with him until after a police report was released. (Photo by KLRT - Fox 16)

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Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino admitted to a “previous inappropriate relationship” in a statement released Thursday in which he apologized for not being forthcoming with details of his recent motorcycle accident.

Though he did not specify who the relationship was with, the name of football department employee Jessica Dorrell was listed in the apology Petrino issued. Dorrell, hired by Petrino for a football staff position on March 28, was with Petrino at the time of the accident.

If Athletic Director Jeff Long and the University of Arkansas establish a link between Dorrell, Petrino and the inappropriate relationship, the situation gets, well...

Here’s a portion of what Section 3.6 of the UA Handbook has to say about a “consensual sexual relationship between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their employees:”

Consensual Relationships

Consensual sexual relationships between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their employees in some instances may result in charges of sexual harassment.

Consensual relationships may lead other faculty and students or supervisors and coworkers to question the validity of grades, evaluations, and other interactions between the people involved in such a relationship. The integrity of the work of both people in the relationship may be compromised.

University faculty, administrators, and other supervisory staff should be aware that any sexual involvement with their students or employees could subject them to formal action if a sexual harassment complaint is subsequently made and substantiated, and that they bear the greater burden of responsibility should it be proven that the power differential between them made the relationship other than fully consensual. Even when both parties have consented to a relationship, it is the faculty member, administrator, or supervisor who may be held accountable for unprofessional behavior. Other students or employees may allege that the relationship creates a hostile or abusive environment affecting them. Graduate assistants, residence hall staff, tutors, and undergraduate course assistants who are professionally responsible for students will be held to the same standards of accountability as faculty in their relationships with students whom they instruct or evaluate.

When a consensual relationship exists between a student and a faculty member who has control over the student's academic work or status or between an employee and his or her supervisor, the resulting conflict of interest should be addressed in accordance with university policies concerning conflict of interest.

Even without the possibility of having violated the sexual harassment clause of the handbook, Petrino could be in for disciplinary action.

Petrino’s contract says he can be dismissed for cause if he engages “in conduct, as solely determined by the University, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of Head Football Coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the University or UAF’s athletics programs in any way.”

Petrino did not attend a 10 p.m. press conference on Thursday to discuss the accident. A pair of attorneys representing Petrino were in attendance, however. will continue to monitor this story.



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