UMass lecturer disciplined for showing ‘offensive’ videos in class

Staff Writer
Published: 12/4/2019 11:22:36 PM

AMHERST — A University of Massachusetts lecturer has been barred from teaching an accounting class for the remainder of the semester for showing students materials that the university deemed “objectively offensive.”

Senior lecturer Catherine Lowry was removed from teaching the class, “Accounting 221: Principles of Financial Accounting,” as the university conducts “a full review of the matter,” according to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that the materials deemed offensive were two student-made videos that Lowry showed the class as examples of an extra credit assignment.

The most widely criticized video, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2009, featured a scene from the 2004 World War II film, “Downfall,” showing a portrayal of Hitler yelling at other Nazi officials in German. The video’s creators dubbed the footage with made-up English subtitles, making it appear that the movie dialogue was related to the accounting class. One portion of the video includes an implied joke about gas chambers.

The other video, which showed a group of male students performing a parody of Blueface’s song “Thotiana,” was criticized to a lesser degree for promoting sexism, according to the Collegian.

In a Nov. 14 email sent to students enrolled in the accounting class, Lowry wrote, “I want to apologize to any student who was offended by the Hitler xcredit video on Tuesday. My intent was never to offend or upset anyone. I was unaware of what was going on on campus.”

Lowry will no longer offer the video extra credit assignment in future years due to current feedback and an unspecified issue earlier in the semester, she wrote.

“I truly am sorry and I have never wanted to offend or hurt any of my students,” Lowry said. “Your success and happiness is most important to me.”

Lowry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. She first began teaching at UMass as an instructor in 2000, according to her CV posted on the UMass website.

On an Instagram post shared by the blacksheepumass account, which incorrectly stated that Lowry had been fired, multiple students commented variations of “#freecat,” referring to Lowry’s nickname. A smaller number of commenters, however, said that Lowry had acted in an inappropriate manner by sharing the Hitler video in particular.

The post, which was critical of the university’s decision to suspend Lowry from teaching the class in favor of “addressing and dealing with actual hate crimes on campus,” received over 1,400 “likes” as of Wednesday.

The UMass Office of News and Media Relations declined to answer whether Lowry will be allowed to continue teaching after this semester, or how the current accounting class is being managed for the remainder of the semester.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com

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