University of Delaware Fires Professor For Insensitive Comments On Facebook

We have yet another academic fired this week for statements made on social media.   University of Delaware professor Kathy Dettwyler attracted national criticism over her statement that Otto Warmbier “deserved” to die after being arrested in North Korea.  The professor of anthropology will now be denied rehire as an adjunct.

Dettwyler went on her Facebook page and  said

“These are the same kids who cry about their grades because they didn’t think they’d really have to read and study the material to get a good grade… His parents ultimately are to blame for his growing up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. Maybe in the US, where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea. And of course, it’s Ottos’ parents who will pay the price for the rest of their lives.”

Dettwyler extended the controversy to her own students by saying “typical of a mindset of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males who come into my classes.”

She asked “Is it wrong of me to think that Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved?”

Apparently the University of Delaware believes that the answer is clearly yes.

The school learned that Dettwyler made similar statements as a comment to an  article published by the National Review.

The school issued a statement that

“The University of Delaware values respect and civility and we are committed to global education and study abroad; therefore we find these comments particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values. Our sympathies are with the Warmbier family.”


We have discussed similar cases this week (here and here).  Dettwyler was clearly expressing her personal views and was not speaking as part of the university.  Again, the university does not say where it draws the line for professors who want to participate in public debates.  That leave an uncertain and chilling standard for academics to discuss contemporary political, religious, or social issues.

What is particularly interesting is that Dettwyler was not employed by the university when the comments were made.

35126992750_476c49a431_zAfter the controversy, one student came forward to reveal the Dettwyler once asked on a test whether it was true that President Donald Trump and his supporters “have expressed… a variety of cultural beliefs that are diametrically opposed” to the morals of the U.S. The only answer option was “True.”  Dettwyler insisted that no students were penalized for not answering the question.

In an interview with UD Review, Dettwyler defended her test question, saying she never penalized a student for not answering it.

The fact that Dettwyler is an adjunct clearly made it easier for the school.  Adjuncts are generally employed year to year or even term to term. They are the ultimate at-will employees.   The school can simply say that the entirety of a record is reviewed in hiring or re-hiring. However, it is still incumbent on the school to define its standards and address the free speech and academic freedom concerns raised by such actions.

Dettwylerhas a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis and an M.A. and PhD in Anthropology from the Indiana University, Bloomington. She previously taught at the University of Southern Mississippi and Texas A&M.

80 thoughts on “University of Delaware Fires Professor For Insensitive Comments On Facebook”

  1. “President Donald Trump and his supporters “have expressed… a variety of cultural beliefs that are diametrically opposed” to the morals of the U.S.”

    This shows what an idiot this woman is. Agree with Trump or not, there is no doubt that his intolerance, bigotry and brutal foreign policies are perfect expressions of the “morals of the U.S.” And as she herself shows, liberals are every bit as intolerant and bigoted as conservatives–they just think it’s okay because their bigotry and hatred is directed at white people and men.

  2. In times past, people had no way to express their private in a public forum that literally anyone in the world could see. It protected everyone against having mean spirited and insensitive or even bigoted remarks that no normal adult would utter in public despite having those very same sentiments in their heads. I don’t have much respect at all for anything she wrote but what she wrote was not written in her capacity as a professor. The thing that concerned and worries me most is her clear hostility toward men. As a professor, how can one hold such hostile beliefs about such a broad class of people and hold them in such contempt? I would feel equally concerned about comments that an instructor might make about women or minorities or people with blonde hair, etc… It has always shocked me how many people hold the very people they serve in contempt whether they be teachers, preachers, businesspeople who despise or hold their customers in contempt and so on. It has to be a hindrance to the person who holds those views to carry around such hostility and anger all the time not to mention the students and customers who might be given a raw deal due to the unfair prejudicial stereotypes that angry human applies to them. Having said that, off duty remarks and actions, as a general rule should not be held against employees in any job unless there is some direct and immediate impact on how the person performs their job. I see no such correlation here. In the age of computers and the internet, merely because we can monitor all kinds of activities in people’s work and private lives does not mean we should or that it is healthy or right to do so.

  3. Adjunct faculty in effect give up any right to personal expression.

    She foolishly stated something quite foolish. The university was wise to refuse to continue to employ a double fool.

    1. “Adjunct faculty in effect give up any right to personal expression. ”

      I wonder about that.

      Many seem to have concerns about holding individuals accountable for their remarks on social media.

      Part of that reservation seems to be based on an analogy between social media and conversation with a close or personal friend. And social media does, at least sometimes, have that characteristic.

      But social media has a public quality. Social media also, at times, fits an analogy with climbing on a soap box in the town square and announcing your view to the general public.

      The question is how much protection should employees expect for their public speeches.

      I would hope that we all have some protection for our personal expressions. But there is nothing private about much of social media or comments made to the National Review.

    2. “Adjunct faculty in effect give up any right to personal expression.”

      They don’t give up ANY right to personal expression. The first amendment still exists, even in academia. However, they don’t have the same contractual rights as tenured profs. Typically, adjunct profs can be dropped for any reason or no reason. They mostly exist to provide budgetary flexibility and there’s no shortage of qualified people. For the most part, one adjunct is as good as any other. If they don’t have the budget for you this semester, you’re gone. They want to get some teaching experience for one of their own recent Ph.D.’s, you’re gone. You’re a crappy teacher, you’re gone. You create a public relations headache for the administration, you’re gone.

      1. The 1st amendment only restricts congress, not college administrations.

        1. An overly literal reading. It certainly restricts the administrations of public universities.

          1. Jay – Public universities are covered by 1st amend rights. However, adjunct faculty are at-will employees. Her contract can be terminated at any time.

  4. New classes in anthropology offered. The study of a barbarian. Guaranteed to knock your socks off. Sign up today. Professor Conan will be teaching. Here’s a preview.

  5. Let me take another stab at this. Dettwyler said “Is it wrong of me to think that Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved?”

    Now my honest assessment of Warmbier is, that he was a frigging idiot to go to North Korea in the first place, a position that previously irritated several people. But, I don’t think that I ever said that he “deserved” to die, because “deserved” really isn’t the proper word. Let’s take some examples of frigging idiots:

    Teenage Johnny was drag racing in the rain, when his car veered off the road and hit a utility pole, killing the both of them. “Is it wrong to think he got what he deserved?”

    Oswald was Free Climbing El Capitan, and he slipped and fell 1000 feet to a mangly, messy, gooey brain-splattering death on the rocks below. “Is it wrong to think he got what he deserved?”

    Marvin backed up against the zoo bars, dropped his pants, and mooned Mr. Stripes, the Siberian Tiger, who proceeded to bite off both of Marvin’s butt cheeks. Marvin bled to death rather quickly, in screaming agony. “Is it wrong to think he got what he deserved.”

    In all these cases, none of us probably believe that the frigging idiots “deserved” death, as some sort of equitable compensation for their actions. Yet, none of us can reasonably divorce these people from the consequences of own actions, and maintain that they weren’t somehow related, or deny that those consequences were in fact brought about by very stupid actions voluntarily entered into. I don’t think you could hold any of these people, “blameless” in what happened to them. They did stupid stuff that got them killed.

    Sooo, “deserve” probably isn’t the right word in any absolute sense. The phrase, “had it coming” might be closer, because that phrase is used in a more relaxed colloquial sense, with less of an absolute meaning, But I think there is still a term or phrase that better covers these situations. I can’t put my finger on it. Took a stupid risk, foreseeable, predictable, not-unexpected, got what he asked for. . . IDK.

    I would appreciate any suggestions for better terminology.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky – I was doing fine until you got to Marvin. I think he deserved to die. 😉

    2. “I would appreciate any suggestions for better terminology”

      You are the word smith.

      So make up a word for us that means something like ‘incurred the foreseeable consequences of his actions’.

      But make sure it sounds somewhat reassuring, but at the same time solemn and just and final.

      I probably left something out, but that ought to be a start.

      1. OK, how about “torpedohed”

        As in someone getting unexpected hit, and “d’oh ed” to express their surprise when something stupid ended badly. As created by Homer Simpson, doh means:

        (used to express dismay when one has said or done something stupid or when something has gone wrong.)
        Compare duh.

        Best I could come up with today. For some reason I am sooo tired that I can barely hold my head open.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. ” For some reason I am sooo tired that I can barely hold my head open.”

          Poor baby. Sleep on it.

          I am sure a limerick will come to you.

          But I like torpedohed. You heard it here first folks, Torpedohed enters the language – I just hope it does not trigger anybody. .

  6. She expressed an opinion in public that white males are rapists who are above the law. Did she think that Otto got what he deserved (to be tortured, starved, and then go into a coma and die) because he was a white male? Because the context of her preceding statements were that white males get away with rape all the time. Or did she think that he believed he could get away with whatever he wanted because he was white? What a remarkably bigoted and hateful thing to say. He did not make a good decision in choosing to visit North Korea, and he clearly was used to our freedoms here when he took a banner. We Americans do love our souvenirs. But he did not deserve to be hurt in any way, not tortured for months on end, and his family does not deserve the terrible grief they are mired in now.

    Otto was not a rapist. He was a college student who visited North Korea. Academia often praises socialism, and North Korea is yet another socialist country that descended into dictatorship. He probably thought he was visiting the Promised Land after his years in the pubic school system and later university.

    She clearly has issues with leaving her personal beliefs at the door to her classroom. What is an anthropologist, cultural or otherwise, doing writing a test question indicating that Trump was opposed to the moral values of America, with the only possible answer being “true”? That shows extreme bias and hostility to anyone who is not a Liberal, and certainly any student who voted for Trump would feel that they had to conform to her beliefs to pass the class.

    Whenever someone makes an inflammatory statement like this outside of the workplace, the question in my mind is always – does it impact their ability to do their job, and does it materially damage the reputation or business of the employer? I’d say the answer to both in this case is “yes”. She cannot do her job free of bias or hostility towards students who do not agree with her. And her blatantly racist and bigoted remarks damage the reputation of the school as a tolerant place with equal access to education.

    This woman is clearly out of her mind with hatred if she thinks anyone deserves to be starved, tortured, and beaten until he went into a coma from lack of oxygen to his brain and died weeks later. That’s the statement of a psychopath and a clear example of political extremism. I wouldn’t want my son anywhere near someone like her when he’s old enough to go to college.

    1. I agree with your well written and well thought out response Karen.

    2. She’s on the social relations faculty and trafficking in social fiction about violent crime. Can anyone say ‘incompetent’?

  7. The bigger picture here is the disturbing situation where academics are increasingly expressing racist statements to the public and feeling empowered to do so, as if they believe it is acceptable and in many cases laudable to do so.

    We are now witnessing the resurrection of institutional racism in America.

    1. This is true. This is an extension of the “It’s OK to punch a Nazi” stuff. Principles have becomes personalized on the Left. The Left and the SJWs believe that whatever they do is OK. If they shut down Trump’s political rally, that isn’t fascist-like, because gee they aren’t fascists. They’re anti-fascists!

      Lisa Durden said as much when he asked her if shutting out white people wasn’t racist, and she did not deny that it was racist. No, instead she countered with “But look at all the racism we have gone thru.”

      It is not the behavior that is judged, but the political side that the behavior occurs on. This was noticed way back about the time of WWII, to wit:

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. Now that the Left has lost, and keeps losing, another dynamic is taking over. It’s not one of surfing History into the future, but of lashing out at phantom threats under the delusion that it’s self-defense. It’s logical within the Gnostic framework: “I do violence to defend myself against the oppression of the current system and its supporters.”

        1. That was a great article. I really like this part:

          Everything outside of me now becomes a projection of internal phantasms, characters, and symbols in my own psycho-drama.

          The bottom line is that, once woke, you see the world in symbolic, iconic idioms, icons deserving destruction. Thus iconoclasm. A simple shop in an inner city becomes a symbol of the system of capitalistic oppression, deserving of riotous destruction. A police officer becomes a symbol of white privilege, justly murdered in an effort to break free from oppression.

          A soldier becomes a symbol of American colonialism, rightly spit upon. Donald Trump symbolizes the patriarchy keeping women down. Republicans become symbols of all that is evil, the archons ruling the world, who will keep us all in chains unless destroyed. Language must be deconstructed, by violent legal fiat if need be. As icons of a hopelessly corrupt world oppressing me, it all must be iconoclastically broken. Violence is salvific.

          Like I have said for a while, most people today are Democrats for the same reason some idiot in Bumfuk, West Virginia, dances around with rattlesnakes in his hands, speaking in tongues. It’s a religious, orgy-istic thing. A sort of narcissistic “Look at me! I am sooo good and wonderful!” Take for example, the Confederate flag nonsense in South Carolina. The illegitimate black birth rate in 2015 was 75%. I am betting when the 2017 numbers come out, it will still be 75%. Because the whole thing was just a symbolic exercise. Full of virtue signalling, and signifying nothing.

          The same will be true in New Orleans.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

          1. Olly, as so did SFGR I’ll quote this passage from Burfeind’s article:
            “The bottom line is that, once woke, you see the world in symbolic, iconic idioms, icons deserving destruction.”
            I find it confusing. How can a movement not consider the use of their own symbols, iconic idioms and icons deserve destruction as well while they preach that dogma?
            Won’t their own members see the pardigm conflict?

            1. Also this quote I find curious knowing that we are currently flooded with comic book adaptations in cinema.

              “Media by its very nature works in the realm of the phantasmic, manipulating archetypes and narratives. Every story has to have a hero and a villain, and in the gnostic psycho-drama, representatives of traditions and long-standing systems or institutions—like capitalism, republicanism, federalism, the rule of law, individualism, marriage, family, and faith—are the villains keeping the hero from his journey of authentic self-realization.”

              1. This is a 10 year old article by Evan Sayet, but even more germane today than it was then. Like Olly’s article, it tries to get the actual inner workings of the Leftist mind:


                When you really get down to it, the “indiscriminateness” of it, what you really have is just “Me, and however I choose to feel about something.”

                Squeeky Fromm
                Girl Reporter

                1. Squeek,

                  Thanks for the article.

                  Two things really hit me: This one

                  “What you have is people who think that the best way to eliminate rational thought, the best way to eliminate the attempt to be right, is to work always to prove that right isn’t right and to prove that wrong isn’t wrong. You see this in John Lennon’s song “Imagine”: “Imagine there’s no countries.” Not imagine great countries, not imagine defeat the Nazis, but imagine no religions, and the key line is imagine a time when anything and everything that mankind values is devalued to the point where there’s nothing left to kill or die for.”

                  I’ve been saying this for years on my own. I used to love that song until I really deeply listened to the words and said to myself, wow, what a boring world Lennon is painting here. Why would I even get up in the morning? But then again, how seriously can you really take a guy who leaves his country to avoid taxes and moves Central Park and then tells everyone they should share everything.

                  The other part was the home run hitting on discriminating/undiscriminating. I have written on this site how I think discrimination and judgement and the lack thereof are the two things killing this country. Glad to know that I’m not alone on this thinking.

          2. I thought so as well. Articles like this make me curious to know just how conscious people are of where their behavior is on the ideological spectrum. That might not even make sense if everything is relative. Where’s the center?

      2. “Lisa Durden said as much when he asked her if shutting out white people wasn’t racist, and she did not deny that it was racist. No, instead she countered with “But look at all the racism we have gone thru.””

        Good point.

        You cannot remedy racism by applying a little of it in the right direction.

        1. You cannot remedy racism by applying a little of it in the right direction.

          That is true bfm as there is no right direction for racism. Extend that argument further and you must conclude their is no right direction for unequal treatment under the law.

          1. Agreed. There is no right direction for racism. Further anyone can be racist. There is no natural immunity.

    2. Darren, not so sure about institutional racism, maybe racist martyrdom by a few extremists with something actually to lose by expressing their views.
      Everyone except BIll Maher has suffered instant unemployment or massive devaluation of their profits from their livelihoods. Marge Schott, Donald Sterling, Paula Deen and professor Lisa Durden.
      This fruitcake is just a left leaning propagandist who happens to be hateful and crass in a very smarmy manipulitve way.

    3. Amen. Your last sentence reminded me of a brilliant analogy Tucker Carlson made within the last couple weeks on his show. He described a College situation (can not recall which one, so many insane examples of illegal bigotry on campus since the Saul Alinsky-Jesus Obama inspired SJW phenomena arrived) promoting XYZ assembly reserved only for some “victim” oriented “minority” group, God knows which one from the pantheon of adult cry babies.

      Tucker said modern promotion of race separation was more “separate but equal,” the exact phrase used by Democrat white racists fifty years ago. These KKK-member Democrats like then-Grand Wizard later Senator Byrd promoted water fountains and other amenities for blacks only, “separate” from whites but otherwise “equal.”

      These freaking Democrat “Progressives” keep returning to their vomit to dine!

      Has Jesus Obama said one word, made one peep, since all these Progressive Democrap Liberals applauded the attempted murder of Senator Scalise? No! Does he agree with them? Apparently yes!

      On the subject of why Obama did little to nothing in the middle of last year when he allegedly learned of Russia’s attempt to impact our election, he likely thought HRC would win, so it did not matter. He obviously over estimated her allegedly legendary mental powers (choosing not to visit certain states she thought where wholly owned Democrat slave states, but who left the plantation to vote red.

      On the subject of why would avowed (alleged) Socialist Bernie Sanders support Goldman Sachs-owned HRC for POTUS? Now we know! His wife and he committed major bank fraud, and HRC was their get out of jail card. Did you see the Fox News lady ask BS questions about his bank fraud? If he’s not guilty, he better learn to act, because he looks guilty as hell right now. I like how someone else put it: Bernie Sanders: “Socialism for you, capitalism for me!”

      What’s the good news above? If Trump and Congress harness 1/10th of the Democrat’s insanity in the next eight years, you can kiss the Democratic party good bye.

  8. Good riddance for a hateful biatch. Warmbier was a typical American man-child who royally effed up – but he did not deserve to die. This should be a wake up call to teach all insulated US children about different cultures so they know what they are getting into before they visit another country.

    1. Warmbier was a typical American man-child who royally effed up – but he did not deserve to die.

      Meanwhile, back in the real world, you know nothing of him or anything he might have done. It doesn’t stop you from shooting your mouth off, however,

  9. What does one expect from the soft sciences? Anthropology? Most of what Margaret Mead wrote has been debunked. Sociology? Studies suffer from a lack of ability to be reproduced under controlled circumstances. Stick to engineering. There is something there!

    1. Interesting comment. Such people do end up making highly complex decisions which affect the rest of us.
      George W. Bush, in my personal opinion, was about as poor a decision maker as one might imagine, and I’m not sure he had a single college course in anything other than philosophy, social science, history and anthropology.
      Knowledge in all these fields is good, but it remains to be seen just how, say, a law degree applies in n increasingly technological world.

      1. George W. Bush, in my personal opinion, was about as poor a decision maker as one might imagine, and I’m not sure he had a single college course in anything other than philosophy, social science, history and anthropology.

        Your imagination is impoverished.

        He had a business degree, As for his undergraduate study, he was enrolled in an arts-and-sciences program (which was modal in 1966), so he wasn’t taking classes in nursing or teacher-training (bar one course in urban planning). He took two courses in the natural sciences: one in astronomy and one in geology.

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