Who is Kathy Dettwyler?

Kathy Dettwyler (center, in dress) with students, 2016

During the past few days we’ve been studying the responses of several ethically challenged commentators to the arrest and imprisonment of American student Otto Warmbier – who died on July 19 – by the brutal regime of North Korea, which accused him of removing a propaganda poster from a hotel corridor. Instead of recognizing Warmbier as a victim deserving of sympathy, writers at Salon and Huffington Post, and so-called comedian Larry Wilmore, either criticized him for his supposed disrespect for his totalitarian hosts or made fun of him for having gotten himself into trouble in the Hermit Kingdom in the first place. But worst of all was Kathy Dettwyler, an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware, who on her Facebook page and in a reader comment posted at the website of National Review, actually tore into Warmbier after his death. To their credit, her bosses at the University of Delaware were quick to issue the following statement:

Otto Warmbier at his press conference in North Korea

The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered.

The University of Delaware values respect and civility and we are committed to global education and study abroad; therefore we find these comments particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values. Our sympathies are with the Warmbier family.

This statement was soon followed by another one indicating that the university would not be rehiring Dettwyler after the present semester.

Kathy Dettwyler, breastfeeding expert

We were so disgusted by Dettwyler’s remarks about Warmbier that we decided to find out more about her. It turns out that Dettwyler is an “expert” on breastfeeding. She is sometimes described as a “breastfeeding advocate” – which means, basically, that she believes in breastfeeding babies until long after they have ceased to be babies. In one article she suggests that it is reasonable to keep breastfeeding a child until somewhere between the ages of three and eight. A brief career summary: after studying at UC Davis and Indiana University, she has bounced from one college faculty to another – the University of Southern Mississippi, Texas A&M, SUNY Plattsburgh, Millersville University.

University of Delaware

After her remarks about Warmbier made national news, The Review, a newspaper published at the University of Delaware, ran a piece about her stating that she had “earned a reputation” at the college “for incorporating her political beliefs into her teaching.” The article quoted junior Nicolas Diclaudio, who had taken two anthropology courses taught by Dettwyler. According to Diclaudio, Dettwyler “would routinely go on political tangents, oftentimes making derogatory remarks about President Donald Trump and his supporters….Dettwyler’s classroom activity became seriously unacceptable when she began to include her political beliefs in academic assessments, asking questions with intentional ideological bias.”

A question about Donald Trump and his supporters from a test by Dettwyler, along with the “correct” answer: true.

“I would always pick the answer that I knew she wanted because I didn’t want it to affect my grade,” Diclaudio told The Review. “Me and some of my friends would stop going to class and just read the textbook because her lectures got out of hand.” The Review noted that Diclaudio was not surprised by Dettwyler’s remarks about Warmbier; on the contrary, the student referred to Dettwyler’s Facebook post on Warmbier as “The most Kathy thing I’ve ever seen.” Student comments about Dettwyler at the website Rate My Professors confirm Diclaudio’s report: “It’s her opinion or no opinion…will give you attitude if you ask certain questions.” “She is very opinionated and blunt.” “Easily the rudest professor I have had at UD.” “She’s extremely rude.” “Way too opinionated to the point where she becomes unprofessional.” “Very opinionated and can be perceived as rude.” “Very opinionated and rude.” “Extremely strict and rude. She thinks she created Anthropology and hates America….She’s horrible and obnoxious.” “Insufferable. I’ve never experienced a professor who’s as self-important…one of the rudest people I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.” “Unbelievably rude when students disagree with her but she tells us to question authority.”

While various national media failed to get any comment out of Dettwyler, she did respond to an inquiry by The Review, stating that “A couple of students complained about my comments in class about Trump, when what I did was talk about statements he himself had made, and lead the students through and analysis of the underlying cultural beliefs they reflected….This is part of my job as an anthropology professor.”

Fighting the Jewish state from the Golden State

We’ll spend this week surveying a few of the more egregious useful stooges in the Golden State. We’ll kick off our tour with the faculty members of four northern California institutions.

Jess Ghannam

Jess Ghannam has a curious combination of academic posts. While serving as a professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine, he’s also UCSF’s Chief of Medical Psychology. But in addition, bizarrely, he’s a professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). An official of several fiercely anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups, he supports the so-called BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. He considers Israel an apartheid state, has accused it of genocide and ethnic cleansing, champions an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and serves on the executive committee of a group, Al-Awda, that calls for Israel’s eradication. He’s a vociferous supporter of Samer Issawi, a member of a terrorist group called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is currently serving time in an Israeli prison for manufacturing pipe bombs and attempting to kill Israeli civilians during the second Intifada. In 2010, according to the Canary Mission website, he “signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles.”

Sunaina Maira

Over at UC Davis, Sunaina Maira, a professor of Asian American Studies, is “an international leader” of the BDS movement as well as a co-founder of both Pakistanis for Palestine and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In recent years she has lent her support to a French boycott of Israeli products, advocated the shuttering of UC’s Israel Abroad program, called for an Israeli scholar to be thrown out of an L.A. academic conference, and publicly condemned the chancellor and provost of UC Davis for not opposing Israel. She’s complained about the “Israel lobby” in the U.S. While defending vile and violent anti-Israeli demonstrations as “peaceful,” she’s routinely leveled baseless accusations of brutality against peaceable Israel and Israelis. In one article she referred to jihadists, harmlessly enough, as “international aid activists” and She denies that the Jews are indigenous to Israel, calls Israelis “our enemies,” and has described Israel’s security fence as an “apartheid wall.”

Magid Shihade

Among Maira’s colleagues at Davis is her husband, Magid Shihade, a research fellow in Middle East/South Asia Studies. He is also, notably, on the faculty at Birzeit University on the Gaza Strip. Canary Mission describes Birzeit as “a hotbed of Jew-hatred” – in 2014 it ejected a fiercely anti-Zionist Haaretz reporter, Amira Hass, from a conference “for being an Israeli Jew”; in 2015 and 2016, terrorist Bilal Barghouti, who is currently in prison for his involvement in suicide attacks (and is famous for masterminding the Sbarro cafe bombing), became Honorary Chairman of its student council. Like Mairi, Shihade has denied the Jews’ historic ties to Israel (or, at least, to Hebron); he has spread Hamas propaganda and has used virulently anti-Semitic materials in his courses; and he has urged Palestinian to boycott U.S. products. In a 2006 essay, he wrote: “I was among many Palestinian-Israelis who cheered for Iraq whenever a scud missile hit Israel.” In a 2012 post for the Economist blog, originally headlined “The Auschwitz Complex,” he mocked Israel’s concerns about Iran’s determination to destroy it. Like his wife, he has told students and other audiences bald-faced lies about the history of Israel and Palestine, representing Israel, for example, as the aggressor in ever war it has fought and as “a violent state by nature.”