University of Delaware anthropology professor, Katherine Dettwyler, has been fired over controversial social media comments she made about the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier. Warmbier was detained in North Korea in 2015 after allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel wall. The North Korean government would go on to sentence Warmbier to hard labor at a prison camp, imprisoning him for over a year before returning him to his family in the United States on June 13.
When Warmbier arrived in the U.S., the now-22-year-old was reportedly in a persistent vegetative state. North Korean officials claimed he had contracted botulism shortly after beginning his sentence. According to Otto Warmbier’s family (who later rejected an autopsy), their son had been subjected to torture. Warmbier passed away on June 19, less than a week after returning to the United States.
Two days after his death, University of Delaware professor Katherine Dettwyler took to Facebook to share her feelings about the tragic death of Otto Warmbier. According to the professor’s now-deleted post, the student got “exactly what he deserved.” Professor Dettwyler called the recently deceased young man “young, white, rich, clueless” in her social media commentary. She also shared her thoughts on the conservative news National Review website, adding that Warmbier was a “spoiled, naive, arrogant, U.S. college student.”
According to the professor, Otto Warmbier’s fate was decided virtually from the moment that he made the decision to visit North Korea. She added that she had no sympathy for watching him break down at his sentencing hearing, where he begged for help.
“He went to North Korea, for f***’s sake, and then acted like a who had never had to face the consequences of his actions. I see him crying at his sentencing hearing and think ‘What did you expect?”
What’s more, Professor Dettwyler grouped Warmbier among cheating frat boy rapists with her viral online rant.
“They think nothing of raping drunk girls at frat parties and snorting cocaine, cheating on exams, and threatening professors with physical violence. I would not call them ‘ordinary’ — not at all.”
While the professor deleted her Facebook post, it had already gone viral, and public outcry was swift and severe. Calls to boycott the University of Delaware came from both sides of the political aisle as people from across the country largely agreed that Dettwyler had crossed a serious professional and ethical line with her social media statements.
Initially, the University of Delaware issued a statement announcing that the professor’s words didn’t reflect the school’s values. In addition, the school expressed their condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier in the wake of their unimaginable loss.
While the school’s response was duly noted, there were many who had been following the story of the professor’s comments about Warmbier who felt that the University of Delaware response didn’t go nearly far enough. Demands that Katherine Dettwyler be let go began to flood social media and the University of Delaware, along with calls to boycott the school until such action was taken.
On June 25, critics of Professor Dettwyler’s words got their wish. The University of Delaware released a second statement about the incident, this time vowing that the adjunct professor wouldn’t be coming back to teach at the school.
As Newsweek reports, the school also made it clear that the professor who insulted Otto Warmbier made it clear that she wasn’t actively employed by the University of Delaware when she posted her thoughts about the deceased U.S. student on social media. Dettwyler worked for the school over the spring semester but was not employed over the summer.
As an adjunct professor, Dettwyler’s contract is semester-to-semester and will not be renewed in the fall.
What do you think about the University of Delaware’s response to the Dettwyler drama? Was the school’s reaction to the social media comments made by their professor regarding Otto Warmbier adequate and appropriate? Let us know in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Kim Kwang Hyon/AP Images]