University of Delaware – June 2017

After controversial Facebook post, university declines to rehire adjunct anthropologist

Newark, DE

The University of Delaware (UD) announced it would not rehire Katherine Dettwyler, an adjunct professor who said on her personal Facebook page that Otto Warmbier “got what he deserved.” Warmbier was a college student from Ohio who died on June 19, 2017, after he had been arrested and held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months.

Key Players

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was on his way to study abroad in Hong Kong when he decided to travel to North Korea with a tour group. During his stay in the country, he allegedly took a propaganda poster from a restricted area in his hotel. Warmbier was taken into custody at the airport before he could board a plane to leave the country. In March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing the poster. On June 13, 2017, Warmbier was returned home to Cincinnati in a coma, which he reportedly fell into shortly after his sentencing. He was suffering from botulism, and died six days after his return to the United States.

Katherine Dettwyler is a former adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s anthropology department. Two days after Warmbier’s death, Dettwyler made a Facebook post in which she wrote that Warmbier was a “clueless white male” who “got exactly what he deserved.” The university released a statement condemning her post, and within days, on June 25, 2017, announced that she would not be rehired for the following academic year.

Further Details

After Warmbier died, Dettwyler wrote on Facebook that his parents were ultimately to blame for his death because he grew up thinking “he could get away with anything he wanted.” “Maybe in the US,” the post continued, “where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea.” Though she deleted the post soon afterward, Dettwyler said she had received death threats for her comments, reported Reuters.

Around the same time, Dettwyler made similar comments on a National Review article, reports The Washington Post. She wrote that she loved her “hard-working, sincere, non-arrogant college students,” but that other students “think nothing of raping drunk girls at frat parties and snorting cocaine, cheating on exams, and threatening professors with physical violence.”


University of Delaware announces it will not rehire Dettwyler after controversial comments

UD announced that it would not rehire adjunct professor Katherine Dettwyler. She was not employed by UD when she made the comments concerning Warmbier, since her contract for the Spring semester had recently ended.

External References

UD issues statement

University of Delaware cuts ties with professor who said Warmbier ‘deserved’ to die, USA Today

Delaware school cuts professor over post on North Korea captive, Reuters

Otto Warmbier: American student freed by North Korea is ‘in a coma,’ The Independent

Professor fired after saying Otto Warmbier was a ‘clueless white male’ who ‘got what he deserved,’ The Independent

Professor who said ‘clueless white male’ Otto Warmbier got ‘what he deserved’ won’t be rehired, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded January 29, 2018