Adjunct professor fired for saying “Otto Warmbier got what he deserved”

An adjunct professor at the University of Delaware has been informed that she no longer has a teaching position at the school, following some very shocking comments she made on Facebook.  Katherine Dettwyler, who taught anthropology, made headlines for a post which stated that Otto Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved”.

For those not familiar with his story, in 2015, Otto Warmbier traveled to North Korea as part of a tour group.  While there, he was arrested for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. In March of 2016,  Warmbier was convicted by the North Korean government and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. After after serving about 15 months, he was released but returned in a comatose state. The U.S. doctors who examined him said that he must have suffered a neurological injury while in captivity.  A week later, Otto Warmbier died at the age of 22.

So, it is against this backdrop that the professor’s online comments were made.  According to Dettwyler, this happened because he was privileged and he had a mindset that he could get away with whatever he wanted.

As you might imagine, the responses to her posts were ones of strong condemnation.  Some even threatened that they would never send their children to the University of Delaware.  In the face of this backlash, Dettwyler took down the posts but, by then, it was too late for her to salvage her job.  The University of Delaware fired Dettwyler. The university also released a statement saying that she would not be rehired in the future.

An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.