University of Cincinnati does not renew contract of professor who called COVID-19 'the Chinese virus'
© Getty Images

The University of Cincinnati has made the decision not to renew the contract of a professor who reportedly used the term “Chinese virus” when discussing COVID-19.

University spokesperson M.B. Reilly told The Cincinnati Enquirer following an investigation into College of Engineering and Applied Science adjunct instructor John Ucker. 

The university launched the probe in September after a student shared a screenshot of Ucker’s email, which went viral and racked up nearly 200,000 interactions on Twitter.

ADVERTISEMENT

Evan Sotzing, a third-year engineering student, had emailed Ucker to tell the professor that he would not be able to attend an in-person lab because his girlfriend had tested positive for the coronavirus.

While he had tested negative, Sotzing was instructed to quarantine for two weeks.

"For students testing positive for the chinese (sic) virus, I will give no grade," Ucker responded.

Shortly after, UC’s Dean of Engineering and Applied Science, John Weidner, said he was "looking into it" and referred the matter for review to the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

"These types of xenophobic comments and stigmatizations around location or ethnicity are more than troubling. We can better protect and care for all when we speak about COVID-19 with both accuracy and empathy – something we should all strive for," Weidner wrote in a statement.

Ucker was put on administrative leave with pay in September, according to the Enquirer. That leave was extended through the end of the semester in December. 

"As an isolated reference, the term 'Chinese virus' did not meet the threshold to be designated harassment," Weidner said in a statement obtained by the outlet. "However, it did represent poor judgment, caused offense to members of our community, and distracted from the learning environment."

“Chinese virus” and other racially charged phrases have been used to target people of Asian descent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the fact that the virus was initially detected in Wuhan, China.

Public health officials and experts at the World Health Organization have warned against the derogatory remarks, saying it would lead to racial profiling. 

Multiple studies have shown that the phrase “China virus” coincided with a surge in discrimination and attacks against Asian Americans.

Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center that tracks incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a report released earlier this month that it has received nearly 3,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate since March 2020.

However, former President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE and his allies have continued to use the phrase to describe the virus.

Trump denied that using the phrase could lead to a dangerous stigma against Asian Americans. An analysis released last week found that Trump’s use of the phrase sparked an increase in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter.