UT professor continues job after domestic abuse charges

Anna Lassmann

Pharmacy professor Richard Morrisett will remain at UT, despite pleading guilty to a felony charge after strangling his girlfriend until “she saw stars” in May 2016, according to an investigation by the Austin American-Statesman.

Morrisett was also accused of another violent incident that sent his girlfriend to the hospital on July 21, 2016, and of violating a restraining order, the Statesman reported.

UT school policy condemns domestic violence as prohibited conduct. Morrisett is a professor in the College of Pharmacy, teaches in the pharmacy doctorate program and runs a research lab. 

After learning of Morrisett’s charges, UT placed Morrisett on paid administrative leave for 18 days back in August 2016 while University officials conducted a review.

“The students were shocked by Dr. Morrisett’s offense,” Pharmacy Council President Melissa Kang said in an email. “Furthermore, we are extremely disappointed that we were not notified of the University’s investigation until now. At this time, we  still do not understand the full scope of the University’s review of Dr. Morrisett. We plan to thoroughly investigate the policy and proceedings of his case.”

Lynn Crimson, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said the college initially learned of Morrisett’s charges on July 27, 2016, when Crimson was notified by the UT Police Department.

Crimson emailed pharmacy students informing them of the Statesman’s investigation prior to its release on Wednesday. Crimson said he worked with the Provost’s Office to complete a comprehensive review of Morrisett in 2016, which examined whether his actions posed a danger to others on campus and if a relationship existed between his criminal behavior and professional responsibilities.

“Ultimately, the team, which did not include any representatives from the College of Pharmacy, found no such relationship, and we allowed him to return to his teaching and lab activities,” Crimson said in the email. “As a condition, he was required to keep me informed of the status of the criminal charges against him, which he did.”

Morrisett pleaded guilty to the first incident in February 2017. Through an agreement with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, all of Morrisett’s cases were resolved. His sentence included four years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a required class on avoiding family violence. He is also not allowed to have contact with the victim, the Statesman reported.

University spokesman J.B. Bird said UT will monitor Morrisett during his probation.

The Statesman obtained records under the Texas Public Information Act that showed Morrisett was not sanctioned by the University even after UT administration found he had violated a University policy that requires employees to notify supervisors of criminal charges. The Daily Texan has obtained these same records under the Texas Public Information Act.

There were no penalties against Morrisett for violating this policy, Bird said.

“Administrators believe they need to do a better job making sure all faculty and staff are aware of the requirement to notify supervisors of felony offenses,” Bird said in an email. “In general, the University takes action on the failure to report if we believe someone willfully hid something, meaning they knew of the requirement and did not report.”

Crimson told pharmacy students that UT is making an effort to address unethical issues by employees and is working to decide how to notify the University community about these issues in the future.