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UMass removes accounting lecturer Catherine Lowry for showing ‘offensive’ student-produced videos

AMHERST — UMass has pulled accounting instructor Catherine West Lowry from her classroom after students complained that two extra-credit, student-produced videos she showed them — including a parody of Adolf Hitler’s rant from the movie “Downfall” — were offensive.

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian first reported Wednesday that Lowry, a senior lecturer, will not teach Accounting 221 for the rest of the fall semester. The last day of classes is Dec. 11.

On Thursday UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski provided only a written statement, saying the university would have no further comment.

“The decision was made by the Isenberg School of Management after it concluded that objectively offensive material had been presented to students,” Blaguszewski said. “The University is conducting a full review of the matter.”

According to the Collegian’s reporting, Lowry offers extra credit to students who produce videos — usually employing humor or parody — about topics from the class. She shows the videos and students vote on the ones they like best. The controversial videos were two from past semesters that Lowry showed this year as examples: the scene from “Downfall,” and a video produced by a group of male students parodying the hip-hop song “Bust Down Thotiana.”

The scene from “Downfall,” in which the dictator berates his terrified staff as the Allies close in, is a frequent subject of parodies in which humorous subtitles are substituted for the original dialogue. But a line of dialogue included in the student video said: “Don’t you dare finish that sentence or I’ll send you to a chamber. And it won’t be the chamber of commerce. I can guarantee that.”

The Collegian reported that students complained the second clip was insulting to women, but was generally seen as the less offensive of the two.

The Republican’s attempts to reach Lowry Thursday morning were not successful. She emailed an apology to students on Nov. 14, according to the Collegian.

“I want to apologize to any student who was offended by the Hitler [extra credit] video on Tuesday,” Lowry wrote. “My intent was never to offend or upset anyone. I was unaware of what was going on on campus. While I’ve received hundreds of wonderful, thoughtful, creative videos over the past 11 years, this issue, along with an earlier issue this semester, has caused the end of these extra credit videos.”

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

Students told the paper that showing the “Downfall” parody was ill timed because swastikas had been found drawn on a campus building Oct. 30. But others defended Lowry, saying her apology was heartfelt and enough in their minds to settle the matter.

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