Governor Charlie Baker speaks to the graduating class during the commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 10, 2019, in Amherst, Mass. Credit: Hoang Leon Nguyen | AP

A University of Massachusetts accounting professor was removed from the classroom by school officials just weeks before the end of the semester after she showed students a parody of Adolf Hitler’s rant from the 2004 movie “Downfall.”

The four-minute clip has sparked controversy on the flagship Amherst campus. University officials called the video shown in Catherine West Lowry’s class “objectively offensive,” according to a statement from UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

Lowry, who has been teaching in the Isenberg School of Management for more than a decade, has offered extra credit to students who make parody videos at the end of each semester, said Ibrahim Akar, 19, a sophomore who took Lowry’s class this fall. Past videos posted to YouTube show groups of students substituting accounting lessons they learned in Lowry’s class for lyrics in rap songs.

In the “Downfall” clip, shared on YouTube in 2009, Lowry’s former students added English subtitles to a much-parodied scene from the German film. The subtitles read, in part, “Don’t you dare finish that sentence or I’ll send you to a chamber and it won’t be the chamber of commerce,” apparently making reference to the gas chambers used in Nazi Germany to kill millions of Jewish people during World War II.

Lowry showed the clip to students in November to provide an example of the kind of videos they could make for extra credit, Akar said.

“It got a lot of mixed responses,” the sophomore said. “Some people were laughing, some people were indifferent. It was a different energy to the classroom. Some said it was too much, like she should have known better.”

Lowry apologized to the class via email, according to the campus newspaper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. She did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

“My intent was never to offend or upset anyone,” Lowry wrote to the class. “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.”

The unconventional assignment led university officials to announce that Lowry would not return to the classroom for the rest of the semester.

“The university is conducting a full review of the matter,” Blaguszewski said.

Lowry was criticized early in the semester for airing a video in which former students parodied the song “Thotiana,” by the rapper Blueface. The clip was taken offline because students said that it was “derogatory towards women,” the Collegian reported.

The incident attracted attention from free-speech advocates.Jonathan Friedman, campus free-speech project director for the nonprofit PEN America, defended Lowry in a statement.

“The videos here may have been offensive, but if professors can face disciplinary action for circulating student-made projects, that can have a chilling effect on how students and faculty engage in the learning process,” Friedman said. “Much humor and satire pushes the boundaries of decorum, but this was, if anything, a teaching opportunity rather than grounds for an investigation.

“It is true that Lowry might have used better judgment, but university leaders must not rush to formal investigations and discipline in cases where direct dialogue and engagement would be more appropriate.”

The video – and the response from students and administrators – inflamed existing tension on a campus that has dealt with recent incidents of anti-Semistism and racism.

In October, swastikas were found drawn in the school’s Fine Arts Center. “We are deeply hurt and disgusted by these anti-Semitic symbols being represented on our campus,” the Student Alliance for Israel posted on its Facebook group.

And last year, a racist epithet and threats against black people were scrawled in Melville Hall, a dorm for first-year students.

Akar said the university took the incident in Lowry’s class “way more seriously.”

“For the Melville stuff, they just sent us an email,” Akar said about administrators. “I feel like they didn’t really investigate.”

In the email, a school housing official told Melville residents that the university “is committed to investigating hateful acts” and invited students to a community meeting to discuss the incident.

A student-run Instagram page shared a meme expressing a similar sentiment to Akar’s. The post accused the university of ignoring “actual hate crimes on campus” and instead “firing good professors for no reason.”

In the comments, students wrote “Free Cat” – an apparent reference to the professor’s first name – and posted cat emoji.