Updated: Petrino could be in violation of sexual harassment rule

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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long made the decision last night to place coach Bobby Petrino on paid administrative leave in light of new details concerning Petrino’s motorcycle accident last Sunday.

Long said he would conduct an internal review of the matter, so for now, Petrino’s job is safe. It may not be in due time for reasons I’ve outlined here, but there’s another way Petrino could end up without a job sooner rather than later.

As Chris Bahn of ArkansasSports360 points out — and by the way, Chris has done a fine job staying on top of this story — Petrino could be in violation of the University of Arkansas’ policy on sexual assault. Here’s what the handbook says on consensual sexual 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.

Now, Petrino hasn’t admitted anything regarding a consensual sexual relationship and Jessica Dorrell hasn’t commented; a statement last night from Petrino only lamented a “previous inappropriate relationship.” Believe you me when I say that was done on purpose.

Petrino’s attorney later added this statement:  “At this point, things are in the University’s hands and we have no comment beyond what Coach said in his statement.”

Does it lead us to believe there was a consensual sexual relationship between Petrino and Dorrell? Sure.

The point is that the interpretation of Petrino’s behavior is in the hands of UA. If Petrino is fired, or even disciplined, it’s because UA felt it was the prerogative to do so due to a violation of either Petrino’s contract, or the school’s handbook.