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June 26, 2017

University of Delaware professor fired after commenting Otto Warmbier ‘got what he deserved’

Katherine Dettwyler, an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s anthropology department, will not be returning to her position after saying that Otto Warmbier, an American student from the University of Virginia who died after being imprisoned in North Korea, “got what he deserved.”

In a statement issued after the comments started drawing national attention, the university said Dettwyler's posts "do not reflect the values or position" of the Newark, Delaware, institution.

Warmbier was imprisoned for reportedly trying to steal a North Korean propaganda poster. He was sentenced last year to 15 years of hard labor but later returned home to the U.S. after suffering irreparable brain damage and in a nearly comatose state. He died shortly thereafter.

Following Warmbier’s death, Dettwyler wrote a Facebook post saying, “Is it wrong of me to think that Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved?”

In the now-deleted post, she also stated, “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 Otto’s parents who will pay the price for the rest of their lives.”

After a flurry of outrage over the Facebook post, the University of Delaware released a statement Sunday that Dettwyler would not be rehired. 

“The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered,” the University said in the statement.

“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.”