Air Force officer under fire for Facebook comment on missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen
The retired Wisconsin National Guard officer said her post was misinterpreted.
An Air Force officer is under fire for a Facebook comment regarding missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen.
According to court documents, Guillen, who has been missing since late April, was allegedly killed by a fellow soldier on the Texas Army base.
In a group called Veteran Humor, Betsy Schoeller, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee lecturer, responded to a post questioning how Guillen was allegedly killed on the base without anyone noticing. Schoeller wrote in a since-deleted comment, "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."
The university's students are calling for Schoeller's termination over the comment. A petition calling for her dismissal has over 116,000 signatures, and a "peaceful protest" is planned Wednesday on campus to hold the university accountable.
"I speak on behalf of my fellow UWM students, staff, and community partners when I say that we want to see Professor Schoeller terminated from UW-Milwaukee staff," UWM student Emily Cruz wrote in the petition. "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. 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."
In a statement released on Saturday, UWM called Schoeller's post "repugnant and terribly at odds" with the school's values. "UWM in no way condones Ms. Schoeller's comments, and we understand and empathize with the outrage and concerns we are hearing."
The school noted that for legal reasons, it cannot fire Schoeller for her posting, which is protected by the First Amendment. "UWM cannot regulate the private speech of its employees," it said in its statement.
The Wisconsin National Guard said in a statement Saturday that Schoeller's comment is "inconsistent with our values" and "we do not condone them in any way." The statement noted that Schoeller retired from the Wisconsin National Guard in 2017.
In a statement released Sunday, Schoeller, a lecturer in UWM's School of Information Studies, said her words were "misinterpreted."
"I am shocked and saddened that my original post was interpreted out of context," she said. "The point I was making is that this is what women are facing in a culture of sexual harassment and misogyny."
Schoeller said she was not implying how she felt, but 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."
The retired colonel went on to say that she has seen attempts to stop harassment culture in the military, such as sensitivity training and focus groups. But "the culture of sexual harassment was still alive and well, despite our best efforts."
"I do not believe in or support sexual harassment. Quite the opposite," she continued. "I've seen the toll it takes on individuals and entire units. But I know it's still here. Because SPC Guillen is not here."
Guillen, 20, was last seen at Fort Hood, an Army base outside of Killeen, on April 22, according to court documents. Human remains were discovered near the base on June 30, authorities said, and an investigation is underway into whether they belong to Guillen.
A suspect tied to Guillen's disappearance, Specialist Aaron David Robinson, died by suicide after being confronted by police officers and federal marshals, officials said. A search of Guillen's cellphone records showed that Robinson was one of the last people she was in contact with, according to court documents.
The Guillen family lawyer, Natalie Khawam, said investigators told her that Guillen and Robinson had an argument in the base's armory after she discovered his alleged affair with the estranged wife of a former soldier. The Army has not publicly confirmed that motive.
The Guillen family and Khawam have also alleged that a man walked in on and watched Guillen as she showered. Guillen did not report the incident because she feared reprisals, her family said. Military officials have refuted that claimed, saying that they haven't found evidence of sexual harassment.
A second suspect, Cecily Aguilar, identified by court documents as Robinson's girlfriend, has been arrested and charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
Aguilar, 22, has allegedly admitted that Robinson told her he bludgeoned Guillen to death with a hammer, according to court documents. She then allegedly helped him dismember Guillen's body and bury her, according to court documents.
Aguilar is expected in federal court in Waco, Texas, for arraignment on Monday.
An attorney was not listed for Aguilar among online court records.
ABC News' Christina Carrega and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.