Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee "does not condone the comments" about the death of U.S. Army soldier Vanessa Guillen made by one of its lecturers but says it cannot regulate the private speech of its employees.
A petition on change.org with close to 15,000 signatures is calling for UWM lecturer Betsy Schoeller — who has served as a colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard — to be terminated.
According to multiple screenshots from a private Facebook group called Veteran Humor, Schoeller responded to an article about Guillen's killing with a comment saying: "You guys are kidding, right? Sexual harassment is the price of admission for women into the good ole boy club. If you're gonna cry like a snowflake about it, you're gonna pay the price."
Guillen had said her sergeant was sexually harassing her and planned to report the behavior. On April 22, she went missing at Fort Hood. Her remains were found Wednesday.
|Pfc, Vanessa Guillen was last seen April 22 in Fort Hood, Texas. Her remains were found Wednesday. Austin American-Statesman|
The Wisconsin National Guard has come under scrutiny in recent years after reports emerged that leadership didn't take reports of sexual assault seriously.
A federal investigation in late 2019 found that Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar for years intentionally ignored orders requiring outside investigations into claims of sexual assault and harassment; he resigned his post and retired from the military.
The investigation found that the Guard's response to reports of sexual assault was devoid of concern for the victims' safety, and that leadership didn't properly track and report assaults, among multiple issues.
In one case, a victim of sexual assault was forced to interact with her perpetrator on a number of occasions — including when both were carrying loaded weapons.
Emily Cruz, a student at UWM, started the petition Friday to fire Schoeller.
|Col. Daniel Yenchesky and Col. Betsy Schoeller at the Armed Forces Dinner in 2016. No Credit|
"As a woman, and a student at UWM I feel unsafe knowing that we have professors who think the sexual assault of women serving in the military is justified," Cruz wrote. "UW-Milwaukee claims to care about the safety of their students, therefore we demand and are holding UWM accountable to take action against Professor Betsy Schoeller."
The university did not respond to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's request for comment Saturday. It did post on Twitter saying it is "horrified" by Guillen's death but "cannot regulate the private speech of its employees.
"There can be no excuse or rationalization for the killing of Vanessa & the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. As the largest educator of veterans in the state of Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee stands in solidarity with those opposed to violence against women including those serving in the military," the university's Twitter thread reads.
"Under the First Amendment, the university cannot regulate the private speech of its employees, but UWM does not condone the comments made by Betsy Schoeller in her Facebook posting. We are committed to a safe, welcoming and inclusive campus. It is our expectation that our employees live up to the values of our university in the academic environment."
The Wisconsin National Guardposted a comment to their Facebook page saying they are horrified by the death of Guillen and, "We were made aware of tasteless and insensitive comments made on social media regarding this situation by a former member of the Wisconsin National Guard who retired in 2017. That individual’s comments and conduct are inconsistent with our values as an organization, and we do not condone them in any way."