A retired Air National Guard colonel and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee instructor say her social media post about the killed soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen’s allegations of sexual harassment were taken out of context.
Betsy Schoeller, a former Wisconsin Air National Guard officer, posted comments on Facebook in response to an article about Guillen’s killing, saying that sexual harassment is the price of intrusion on women in the military and “if you cry like a snowflake about it, you will pay the price. “
Her comments backfired and were condemned by university officials in a statement Saturday as “beyond thoughtless”
“UWM is in no way condensing Ms. Schoeller’s comments, and we understand and empathize with the outrage and concerns we hear,” the statement said. “There can be no excuse or rationalization for killing the SPC Guillen and the circumstances of this tragedy.”
The university also said there were legal reasons for it not being able to postpone Schoeller “for her posts on social media, as some have demanded” and that it cannot regulate the employee’s private speech.
An online petition launched on Friday by a UW-Milwaukee student requesting that Schoeller be terminated has more than 133,000 signatures.
Schoeller released a statement on Sunday through UW-Milwaukee, where she is a lecturer at the School of Information Studies, where she offered her comfort to Guillen’s relatives and sympathy for all victims of sexual abuse and harassment.
Schoeller, 58, said she did not mean to suggest that this is how she feels and that she is sorry that her words were misinterpreted. She did not immediately return a request for an interview on Monday.
“I gave voice to the messages that women hear in the culture of sexual harassment: The message we get from the culture is not only that you will suffer from sexual harassment, if you hug it you will suffer even more.
“Because it’s not just the sexual harassment. It’s just the beginning,” the statement said. “Then comes the annoying decision on reporting. Or not reporting. The pressure of friends who know about it and just want to help. In the end, measures to resist that culture of sexual harassment on their own.”
Schoeller has taught at the university for 23 years, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
She retired in 2017 as a colonel of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.
The guard said on its Facebook page Saturday that it was informed of “tasteless and insensitive comments” by a former member.
“The individual’s comments and behavior are in line with our values as an organization, and we do not condone them in any way,” said the guard, adding that it “cannot regulate speech for past members” of the organization.
Guillen, 20, disappeared at Fort Hood on April 22. Partial human remains found last week near the Leon River in central Texas were confirmed to be those by Guillen, a family lawyer said Sunday. Private Guillen’s family has been demanding answers since she disappeared. They have said that Guillen told her she was sexually harassed. In June, Fort Hood officials announced that they had appointed a team to investigate these charges.
Schoeller said in her statement released on Sunday that she has seen the sexual harassment take on individuals and entire military units.
“The point I made is that this is what women face in a culture of sexual harassment and misogyny,” Schoeller said. “It’s not easy being a woman in the military. Not easy at all. There are some men who have adapted to the idea of working with women, but there are as many who do not have it.”
Schoeller said she has “seen many attempts to crush this harassment culture from the military,” such as zero tolerance, reporting procedures, sensitivity training, discussions, focus groups and role play.
“Somehow there was always another case. Now SPC Guillen was dead,” Schoeller said. “And I knew why. Because the culture of sexual harassment was still alive and well, despite our best efforts.”