Betsy Schoeller, a retired Wisconsin Air National Guard officer who is also an instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee is drawing criticism after she posted comments on Facebook in response to an article about slain solider Specialist Vanessa Guillen’s sexual harassment allegation, saying sexual harassment is the price of admission for women in the military and “if you’re gonna cry like a snowflake about it, you’re gonna pay the price.”
An online petition launched last week by a UW-Milwaukee student calling for Schoeller, who is a senior lecturer in the School of Information Studies, to be terminated has generated more than 130,000 signatures.
In a statement, the university also said there were legal reasons it could not fire Schoeller “for her social media postings, as some have demanded” and that it cannot regulate the private speech of its employees.
“WM in no way condones Ms. Schoeller’s comments, and we understand and empathize with the outrage and concerns we are hearing,” the statement said. “There can be no excuse or rationalization for the killing of SPC Guillen and the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”
Schoeller released a statement and apologized, adding that her words were misinterpreted.
“I was giving voice to the messaging that women hear in the culture of sexual harassment: The message we receive from the culture is not only will you suffer from sexual harassment, if you squawk about it, you will suffer even more.
“Because it isn’t just the sexual harassment. That’s just the beginning,” the statement said. “Then comes the agonizing decision about reporting. Or not reporting. The pressure applied by friends who know about it and only want to help. Having to ultimately stand up to that culture of sexual harassment on your own.”
Schoeller has taught at the university for 23 years and retired in 2017 as a colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.