University of Canterbury lecturer under investigation for public Quora posts bashing beneficiaries

The University of Canterbury confirmed it was aware of the lecturer's online activity and the matter is currently under investigation.
The University of Canterbury confirmed it was aware of the lecturer's online activity and the matter is currently under investigation. Photo credit: Getty / File

Warning: This article mentions suicide and shootings.

A senior lecturer who shared a series of posts expressing extreme views on the forum Quora - including one comment that implied beneficiaries should die by suicide - is under investigation by the University of Canterbury. 

Luke Schneider, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the Christchurch-based university, has been found to have shared a number of comments containing harmful language under his Quora account, which publicly displayed his name, job and employer. 

In response to a question regarding the Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis following the alleged murder of George Floyd, Schneider wrote on May 29: "If these were my businesses I would be shooting the looters and fire bugs throwing flaming bottles. Filming every minute of it so the shootings would be justifiable."

On June 5, another posed the question, "Should you try to defend your personal property against looters in a riot?" Schneider responded: "I only shoot to kill... I always pull off 2 rounds, in rapid succession, to ensure that outcome and to eliminate any question of covering my butt by taking them out when they are already incapacitated."

Speaking to Critic, the student magazine of the Otago University Students' Association, Schneider confirmed the account was his and acknowledged he is "by nature, a gadfly" - a term for an individual who enjoys provoking others through criticism. 

"I do like to prod the beast... I am typically pointing out a contrary view, mistaken assumption, or different way to think about a problem, which is the root of all human progress," Schneider told Critic

Other comments made under his account include claims that the world needs a virus capable of killing "80 percent" of the population - "preferably one that attacks the lowest IQ people" - and that Arts' graduates are paid less as their degrees have "lower marginal utility" to society. 

The lecturer also lambasted young people as a "brainless generation" when answering a question implying over-50-year-olds' have no awareness of climate change. 

"Another 'OK, boomer' assumption from the brainless generation. Yes, I understand, you were born $65,000 in debt because slightly more than half of us were too greedy or stupid to vote out the politicians buying our votes at your expense," he wrote.

"My advice to those reaching maturity today is that the only good politician is a dead politician and learn to exercise Amendment 2 for its original intent."

University of Canterbury.
University of Canterbury. Photo credit: File

On August 11, the lecturer implied that beneficiaries should die by suicide when replying to a user's question as to whether social security - benefits for the unemployed, disabled or retired in the US - is wealth redistribution.

"So, yes, Social Security is a wealth redistribution scheme, effectively taking the wealth from those not yet born to pay for those that didn’t prepare for their retirements today," he wrote.

"Frankly, if you can’t survive without the largess of others, it’s your patriotic duty to commit suicide."

A University of Canterbury engineering student told the student magazine that Schneider's opinion towards beneficiaries made her "uncomfortable". Another revealed he was a "non-PC professor" and feared the possible consequences of calling out his views in class. 

Newshub approached the University of Canterbury for comment. Paul O'Flaherty, the executive director of People, Culture and Campus, confirmed the university is aware of Schneider's online conduct.

"The University is aware of comments made by an academic staff member in an online forum," O'Flaherty told Newshub.

"The opinions expressed do not represent those of the University of Canterbury. 

"The University is looking into the matter and has nothing further to add at this time."

'A dangerous lack of empathy'

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) coordinator and beneficiary advocate Ricardo Menendez-March claimed Schneider's views show "a dangerous lack of empathy".

"Suggesting that people trying to survive in a welfare system... should commit suicide shows a dangerous lack of empathy. Hateful, racialised comments towards low-income communities perpetuate violence and division, and directly contribute towards ill mental health," Menendez-March told Newshub.

"Your employment status does not determine your right to a life with dignity. People outside of paid employment make incredibly meaningful contributions to our society, such as caregiving, community labour, and volunteering."

Menendez-March also called on the University of Canterbury to exercise their alleged commitment to "maintaining a safe and healthy environment for students, staff, visitors and contractors".

"Having University lecturers spouting hateful comments that suggest people on the benefit should commit suicide is unhealthy and unsafe," he said.

"We would expect the University of Canterbury to hold its lecturers accountable."

At the time of publication, Schneider's Quora profile no longer displays his profession or employer, but his credentials claim he is a former chief scientific officer who obtained a PhD in chemical and biological engineering from Princeton University.

The lecturer has posted 618 times to Quora, and it appears he began sharing his opinions at the end of March - when New Zealand was under alert level 4 lockdown. Many of his comments are in response to questions regarding economics.

Newshub approached Schneider for comment, but he refused to answer any questions and directed Newshub to the University of Canterbury media team.