An archaeology professor who used a Nazi salute to make a point about free speech has retired after facing a vicious backlash including having his course canceled by the University of Pennsylvania.
The controversy erupted earlier this month when Robert Schuyler used the gesture during the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA).
It happened after the event moderator gave Schuyler permission to interrupt another speaker only for the other speaker, Liz Quinlan, to deem his question, which was about how the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted membership renewals for 2021, off topic.
⚠️Content Warning: This video contains tactics of harassment and intimidation, as well as a Nazi gesture and language. (4/6) pic.twitter.com/OfgmioSXAf
— Dr. Kristina Killgrove (@DrKillgrove) January 9, 2021
“This is not the place for you to bring this up,” Quinlan said.
“I’m sorry, but I have freedom of speech and you’re not going to tell me it’s not the place for me to bring this up,” Shuyler responded.
Video of the incident then shows Prof. Schuyler raising his left hand in the salute and telling Quinlan: “Sieg heil to you.”
Quinlan took to Twitter to express her ongoing outrage and offense following the incident.
I really appreciate the support I’m getting from people from all corners of my field, and I want everyone to know that I am okay and I have been moving forward with grievance processes with various institutions.
— Liz M. Quinlan 🏳️🌈 (@archaeoliz) January 9, 2021
Schuyler admitted to the student newspaper that he had said the phrase and deserved reprimand but that his point still stood. However, he retired just days later.
“I think I should be yelled at, but, again, I think there’s a very fine line between that and suddenly we’ve all lost our freedom of speech,” he told the paper.
The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) claims it has taken steps to address the incident.
“Actions have been taken internally to rectify the situation and ensure that a situation like this is addressed in a more timely manner moving forward,” the SHA wrote, adding that it was still trying to figure out how best to arrange their online conferences after the offensive outburst during its inaugural virtual event.
The University of Pennsylvania canceled classes taught by Prof. Schuyler prior to his retirement.
“We are aware of a recent video showing a professor [and] curator using a Nazi expression during an online conference,” Pennsylvania Museum wrote on its Twitter account, claiming the professor’s remarks were the “antithesis of who we are and what we stand for.”
“The Penn Museum condemns this reprehensible behavior [and] rejects this dangerous rhetoric.”
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