Richard Morrisett, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin was found dead in his home on Thursday. His death coincided with the university’s announcement of taking a tougher stance on employee misconduct. This change in policy was created due to controversy over Morrisett being able to stay on staff despite pleading guilty to assaulting his girlfriend in 2016. The University received backlash for determining that the case wouldn’t affect Morrisett’s abilities as an employee, and will have decided to better consider the implications of faculty criminal records on their employment.
Students were very vocal about their thoughts towards UT Austin keeping Morrisett on staff. In February, someone spray painted “UT harbors abusers” and “watch your back Richard” on and near the pharmacy building on campus where Morrisett worked. There was also a protest on campus in February with protestors carrying signs that said “fire Richard Morrisett.” The university’s President Gregory Fenves responded to the criticisms of Morrisett’s continued employment in saying, “Violent action by any member of the university community is unacceptable,” Fenves wrote in response to the feedback. “This episode shows we need to explicitly define conduct that is subject to discipline, including possible termination, regardless of whether it occurs on or off campus.”
Fenves released a statement Friday after Morrisett’s death, saying, “Professor Morrisett’s death is a tragedy. We support his family and loved ones as they grieve during this time. We recognize these are difficult times on campus and the university will offer all the support we can to students, faculty and staff members.”
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