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Calls to fire Penn prof who gave Nazi salute during video conference

Archaeologist Robert Schuyler also allegedly said ‘Seig Heil’ as he directed gesture at guest speaker who refused to discuss topic he raised

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of Robert Schuyler, associate professor of anthropology and associate curator-in-charge of the historical archaeology section at the Penn Museum, as he makes a Nazi salute during an archaeology video conference. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of Robert Schuyler, associate professor of anthropology and associate curator-in-charge of the historical archaeology section at the Penn Museum, as he makes a Nazi salute during an archaeology video conference. (Twitter)

Students were calling for the University of Pennsylvania to fire an archaeology professor after he used a Nazi salute and greeting last week during a video conference in response to another attendee who wouldn’t let him speak.

Robert Schuyler, an associate professor of anthropology and associate curator-in-charge of the historical archaeology section at the Penn Museum, made the gesture during the annual Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) conference.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university’s independent student media organization, reported Monday that a student petition had been launched to have Schuyler fired.

Schuyler told the paper that he made the gesture because he felt his freedom of speech was being suppressed and that his actions were an attempt to reference Nazi Germany’s limitations on free speech. He said he regretted what he had done and does not endorse Nazism.

“The University is initiating a review to determine the appropriate course [of] action,” a spokesperson told the DP

College senior Sarah Simon, who is Jewish, said she felt that Schuyler should be fired.

“I don’t think that’s something that Penn’s campus should tolerate in any capacity, and I certainly won’t feel safe on campus, nor do I think most Jewish students will feel safe on campus” if Schuyler remains, Simon told DP.

Kathleen Morrison, chair of UPenn’s anthropology department, told Science magazine on Monday that university officials were still discussing the matter but noted that “Dr. Schuyler will not be in the classroom this semester.”

“The Penn Museum condemns this reprehensible behavior and dangerous rhetoric,” the museum told the DP without specifying if it was taking any action against Schuyler. “It is the antithesis of who we are and what we stand for.”

During the conference session Liz Quinlan, a doctoral student at the University of York, was invited to speak about her work as the accessibility and inclusion coordinator for the conference.

Schuyler, who was SHA president in 1982, raised a question about how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was affecting SHA membership renewals.

“This is not the place for you to bring this up,” Quinlan told him.

“I’m sorry, but I have freedom of speech and you’re not going to tell me this is not the place for me to bring this up,” Schuyler responded.

As Quinlan tried to continue talking about her topic, Schuyler reportedly said, “Sieg Heil to you”

“Sieg Heil,” a Nazi Germany greeting means “Hail Victory.”

Video of the incident was shared on social media, with some suggesting that Schuyler had in fact said “Heil to you.”

“We are deeply sorry that our conference became a place where people felt threatened, unwelcome, and diminished by the actions of an individual,” SHA President Barbara Heath said in a statement reported Monday by Science. “There is no place for such behavior in the SHA.”

Heath said “actions have been taken internally” but declined to give any details as the harassment reporting process is confidential, according to the report.

“I’m very satisfied with the way the SHA has responded so far,” Quinlan said, according to Science.

The DP, citing Federal Election Commission data, reported that Schuyler has been affiliated with right-wing organizations and since 2019 donated hundreds of dollars to US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and other right-wing organizations.

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