Response to professor’s domestic violence guilty plea leads to UT policy review

Richard Morrisett (University of Texas Photo)
Richard Morrisett (University of Texas Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The president of the University of Texas at Austin says he has received feedback from many people about a professor’s continued employment following his guilty plea to a 2016 domestic assault charge.

President Greg Fenves said Friday the university has policies and procedures in place that require them to determine “whether off-campus conduct has a direct impact on an employee’s on-campus duties.”

Fenves said the university’s response to Professor Richard Morrisett’s guilty plea reflected those policies. However, the UT Austin president said it was time to review the policies to make them clearer and stronger.

“Violent action by any member of the university community is unacceptable,” Fenves wrote. “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.”

A UT spokesperson said Wednesday that the university continues to take Morrisett’s criminal behavior very seriously and investigated it immediately.

“The most important matter for the university was to review whether Dr. Morrisett’s actions posed a danger to others on campus and whether his actions would impact his duties or pose a threat to our community,” said J.B. Byrd, the university’s director of media relations. “He is being punished by the criminal justice system. We are monitoring him during probation to make sure he meets all the conditions and is not accused of other criminal behavior.

Fenves has directed the Provost’s Office, Human Resources and the Office of Legal Affairs to come up with recommendations within the next two months. The president also issued a directive to enforce the requirement that all employees report any arrests to their supervisor.

“It is our responsibility to make sure that the conduct of all community members reflects our educational mission and the values to which we aspire,” Fenves continued.

Morrisett is the Revco Foundation Fellow in Pharmacy at UT.

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