A suicide at the University of Texas Reveals Dark Side of #MeToo Movement

Article here. Excerpt:

'Before killing himself with a drug intended for rapid and painless animal euthanasia, Richard A. Morrisett had endured a nightmare at the University of Texas in Austin. The 57-year-old tenured professor of pharmacology and toxicology was once a rising star in the College of Pharmacy – a man regarded as a first-rate research scientist and teacher during his 21 years at the state's flagship university. Morrisett's research offered new insights into alcohol-related brain disorders and alcoholism – an arcane area of research among neuroscientists. Some colleagues called him “brilliant.”

Morrisett's career, however, was destroyed by a single newspaper article. Published by the Austin American-Statesman, a metropolitan daily, the article dredged up an ugly episode from Morrisett's past – a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend at the time. It was the sort of inexcusable incident that, sadly, the police and courts handle all the time. There were no serious injuries; it hadn't even merited a headline when it occurred on May 28, 2016. Morrisett, in a plea deal, pleaded guilty to a 3rd degree felony. He was sentenced to four years of probation, called community supervision in Texas, and ordered to receive counseling, take a class on avoiding family violence, and perform 100 hours of community service. Morrisett had thought he was moving on with his life. He had accepted responsibility for his actions and, moreover, had put an apparently volatile and dysfunctional relationship behind him.

Then, more than a year and a half after the incident, a Statesman reporter contacted Morrisett about the domestic violence case. On his lawyer's advice, Morrisett declined to comment. And not long after that, on Thursday, January 25, his nightmare began: He woke up to see a banner headline across the Statesman's front page: “UT declined to sanction professor who pleaded guilty to violent felony.” The incident had suddenly become timely – tied as it was to the #MeToo movement that, starting one year ago with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, has since targeted and disgraced a number of prominent or famous men for being sexual predators and abusers.

Until the Statesman's article, only a handful of people knew about the incident, mainly in the criminal-justice system and at the University of Texas. But the #MeToo movement changed all that; or as the Statesman explained: “The case comes to light at a time of heightened concern at colleges and universities, and more broadly across American society, about sexual assault and interpersonal violence.”

The Statesman's article set off a media feeding frenzy and campus uproar. Overnight, Morrisett became Public Enemy No. 1. Enraged that a domestic violence abuser was in their midst, many students staged peaceful anti-Morrisett protests, chanting and marching while shadowed by campus police. Radical leftist students, however, went on a rampage. One night, students apparently affiliated with the Revolutionary Student Front, a communist group, stormed the College of Pharmacy like the blood-thirsty mob that stormed the Bastille. They spray painted the building's front stone facade with red paint reading: “UT harbors abusers.” Nearby on the sidewalk, they wrote: “Watch your back, Richard.” And Morrisett's office door was spray painted: “Get out Morrisett or else!” The graffiti was signed with hammer and sickle symbols, and later posted on the website of the local Revolutionary Student Front.'

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