University of Delaware Fires Professor Who Said Otto Warmbier ‘Got Exactly What He Deserved’

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 3:27 pm, June 26, 2017
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An anthropology professor at the University of Delaware who made caustic comments about Otto Warmbier, saying the student “got exactly what he deserved” in North Korea, has been fired for her comments.

The university previously condemned Katherine Dettwyler’s critique of Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia college student who died earlier this week.

Katherine Dettwyler

But it went further on Monday, announcing that it had no plans to rehire Dettwyler for upcoming semesters.  Warmbier spent over a year in a North Korean prison on a 15-year sentence for allegedly removing a propaganda poster.  He was eventually freed but was in a coma and died just days later in the U.S.

In a public Facebook post (archived link), Dettwyler had said Warmbier was a “spoiled, naïve, arrogant US college student,” and said he “got exactly what he deserved” for not following the country’s draconian laws. The professor described him as having a “typical mindset of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males” who attend her college.

Her comments were in line with articles published on Huffington Post and Salon, which mocked the victim’s “white privilege.” Dettwyler complained that not enough people cared about others who suffer under the country’s repressive laws, and equated the American student to “the same kids who cry about their grades” in her classroom.

She faced a torrent of backlash for her comments. Dettwyler attempted to defend herself. “I am not, in fact, full of hate,” she said. “I love my hard-working, sincere, non-arrogant college students.”

The university is distancing itself from the professor’s comments. In a statement on Twitter, the university’s administration disavowed her opinions, calling them “particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values.”


Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.