Schoeller-Photo
Image via courtesy Betsy Schoeller

A former Wisconsin Air Guard Officer told The Americano she didn’t mean to imply Vanessa Guillén deserved to be sexually harassed when she posted “Sexual harassment is the price of admission [to the military].

TEXAS — The former officer with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, Betsy Schoeller, was “shocked and saddened” when her Facebook post “was interpreted out of context.” But a petition on change.org has more than 130,000 signatures demanding she is fired as a senior lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Social media users were furious Friday when they discovered a post Schoeller made in a Facebook group responding to an article about the murder of Private First Class (PFC) Vanessa Guillen. Many thought Schoeller implied Guillen deserved to be sexually harassed in the Army. Her post read, “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.” 

Multiple screenshots of Schoeller’s post were shared on Facebook and Twitter. One woman said, “Fire Betsy Schoeller!!! …Victim shaming is disgusting!” Another posted on Twitter, “Get this human debris out of the Air Force and any other place we find them.”

But in an email to The Americano, Schoeller said her comment did not express her personal opinion. “It was a response to the question ‘why did this happen?’ It voiced the message that many women experience when they participate in ‘male-dominated’ activities.”

People Demand Justice and Sensibility

The FBI said Guillén was killed at Fort Hood on April 22, the day her family reported her missing. But according to the family’s attorney said Guillén was about to file a formal complaint that a sergeant was sexually harassing her on the base.

Schoeller told The Americano that she was in the Air Force for five years, and ten years in the Air Reserve. She also spent five years with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, which was investigated in 2019 for having a culture of sexual misconduct. Schoeller said it’s not easy to be a woman in the military because they will suffer from sexual harassment and suffer more if they speak out. “Having to ultimately stand up to that culture of sexual harassment on your own. Adding suffering on top of suffering. Some endure continued harassment and assault, being forced to work with the perpetrator. Sometimes even death.”

The former Air Force Lt. Colonel described the military as a place where some men have adapted to working with women, and others have not. She has seen the military make attempts to “squash this sexual harassment culture” through reporting procedures, sensitivity training, films, and focus groups. “Now SPC Guillen was dead. And I knew why. Because the culture of sexual harassment was still alive and well, despite our best efforts.” 

RELATED: Suspect Dead in Missing Soldier Vanessa Guillén’s Case After Remains Found

Army investigators confirmed to have two suspects in connection with Guillén’s disappearance. Last Tuesday night, Specialist Aaron Robinson took his own life when Killeen Police tried to apprehend him. FBI investigators said Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar told them how he killed Guillén and what both of them did with her body. Investigators found her remains on Tuesday near the Leon River in Bell County. Guillén’s attorney said on Friday her remains have been positively identified. Aguilar is now in FBI custody on federal charges. 

Aguilar was in federal court in Waco Monday morning. Prosecutors with the US Attorney’s office read the FBI criminal complaint that provided details on how Guillén was killed and what happened to her body. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Aguilar reportedly said when asked if she understood the charges against her. Aguilar faces 20 years in prison if she’s convicted of tampering with a human body. She goes back to court on July 14. 

Guillen’s family stated at a press conference they believe Robinson was the person who was sexually harassing her. Last Thursday, Army investigators at Fort Hood said Robinson was not Guillén’s supervisor, and there was no “credible information” that Robinson sexually harassed Guillén. 

Schoeller Can’t Be Fired From University Because of Legal Rights

Schoeller has been a senior lecturer at UWM for more than 15 years. Saturday, the University posted a response to the petition demanding her firing and her comment on Facebook. “They are repugnant and terribly at odds with UWM’s values. UWM in no way condones Ms. Schoeller’s comments, and we understand and empathize with the outrage and concerns we are hearing,” said University officials. 

Emily Cruz and two other students at the UWM started the petition to get Schoeller terminated. 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 response to the petition, Schoeller told The Americano that she has fought against sexual harassment cultures for most of her life. “I’ve spent two careers, one in the military, and one at the university, in positions where a large part of my job is to mentor, advocate, support, counsel, and protect women and men.”

UWM officials said they cannot fire Schoeller for her social media post, because she has legal rights. The UWM statement reads, “…This type of speech is protected by the First Amendment, as UWM cannot regulate the private speech of its employees.” Schoeller’s Facebook post has been taken down.

This story has been updated to add Betsy Scholler’s reaction to the UWM petition controversy.