Professor faces drug charges

Jessica May

Local news media announced the arrest of Villanova chemical engineering professor Dr. Edward Ritter for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver over Easter break.

According to an Action News Channel 6 report that aired on March 20, Ritter was arrested at his home on March 19 after selling marijuana to two undercover agents. Police confiscated 19 bags of the illegal drug as well as drug paraphernalia from his Collegeville, Pa., residence, the TV report said.

Arraigned on March 20, by District Judge Walter F. Gadzicki Jr. of Limerick, Pa., Ritter was released on $15,000 bail and is now awaiting his preliminary hearing before Gadzicki on April 14 at 9 a.m., according to the Times Herald.

As a chemical engineering professor, Ritter specializes in chemical kinetics and computational quantum chemistry and has been teaching at Villanova for the past 17 years.

He teaches courses in both Fluid Flow Operations and Chemical Reactions for Engineering II and is responsible for teaching approximately 84 students this semester.

Martina Fraschetti, a sophomore chemical engineering major, was surprised to hear of the arrest of one of her favorite professors.

“He was a really nice guy, and I would have never guessed he was associated with drugs,” Fraschetti said.

Kimberly Del Col, another one of Ritter’s sophomore students, echoed the shock that was felt by the student body when the news of his arrest was made public.

“The whole night I was on the phone with people in my class because none of us could believe this had happened,” Del Col said. “We were all surprised because he’s such an accomplished engineer and a wonderful professor. It’s such a shame that this one incident may ruin all of that.”

According to University officials, Ritter’s future at Villanova is still undecided.

Ann Diebold, vice president of communications, stressed the importance of allowing the University to conduct an internal review of the situation before any final decisions are made.

“We are currently conducting an internal review regarding [Ritter’s] status, which is being conducted as quickly, thoroughly and diligently as possible,” Diebold said. “As an institution, our first responsibility goes to the students, and we certainly take the reputation of our faculty very seriously.”

According to the 2008 Academic Policy and Affairs Handbook, the University exercises no tolerance when handling cases concerning the “unlawful manufacture, distribution, sale, possession or use of any drug by any of its employees.”

This statement applies to situations that occur both on and off campus.

Students voiced mixed feelings about the situation.

“It’s his personal life,” Fraschetti said. “Although I don’t approve of what he was doing because it made our department and school look terrible, my perception of him as a teacher hasn’t changed.”

No one has alleged that Ritter is responsible for possession or selling of the drug on Villanova’s campus.

“Montgomery County Law Enforcement has advised us that there is no indication that [Ritter’s drug association] extends to the University,” Diebold said.

For now, University officials have barred all communication between Ritter and students.

“Dr. Ritter will not be on campus and will not have any contact with students during this matter,” Diebold said. “His classes are continuing under a different instructor, and we are confident that the students’ education will not suffer.”

According to Diebold, University officials are being guided in their decisions by a commitment to Augustinian values and high-quality education.

“We regret that these actions are necessary, but we do have a commitment to providing the highest quality education of students,” Diebold said.

Further developments in the case will be made public after the 9 a.m. hearing that will take place on April 14.

Once the University is made aware of the details of Ritters situation, a decision will be made regarding his future.