A teacher said to change the language of the “Chinese virus” in the program



A University of Dallas professor who used the term “Chinese virus” in his curriculum this semester was asked to change the wording to “COVID-19” after students objected.

“Only an official email from the Dean’s office will suffice for quarantine status due to the Chinese virus,” the original program said in one of two similar uses of the term.

The terms “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” are widely considered to be race-insensitive, and their use has been linked to an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

No student has complained directly to the professor or his chair, according to public accounts of what happened. But the program quickly caught on on social media, where commentators said the term was racist.

In an Instagram post, the college’s Asian Student Association shared a screenshot of the document, claiming that the term “Chinese virus” promotes “discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans because it condemns them to be the cause of the virus “. The influence of this accusation has led to an outbreak of ill-treatment (both passive and violent) and xenophobic attacks against Asians across the world.

Citing the #StopAsianHate online awareness campaign, the post also states that the use of the “Chinese virus” in a learning environment “is inappropriate not only for Asian American students, but also for all students of Asian descent. minorities ”.

William Atto, the associate professor of history at the center of the case, complied with the private Catholic university’s order to update the curriculum. He also emailed the students to explain the change.

Atto did not respond to a request for comment. But her department head, Susan Hanssen, is speaking out, saying that now that “the culture cancellation has arrived on our campus”, she “will not remain silent.” She expressed her concerns about the incident in a opinion piece for The College’s solution, a conservative news site on higher education.

Hanssen wrote in the article that although no student directly opposed the program, Instagram “exploded with accusations of racism via the account of a group of left-wing UD alumni” at the end of the first day of class. “To say they were waiting for any excuse to pounce is an understatement.” Social media trolls shouted that, like Donald Trump, Atto had put “a target on Asian Americans,” and claimed the recent surge in anti-Asian violence was due to the use by Trump from the phrase “Chinese virus” “.

Stating that these “trolls” had “missed the mark,” Hanssen wrote that as a historian, Atto “understands that history is complex and that it is not easy to place the oppressors and the oppressed in it. easily labeled identity politics categories ”. Where were these ‘Instagram trolls of the past 20 years as Atto taught the story of the savage Japanese’ Nanking rape ‘? she asked. “The brutality of the Maoist communist regime against its Chinese people? America’s exclusionary acts against Chinese immigrants?

Hanssen suggested the case could have ended when Atto “immediately nodded” to the university and changed the document, but his “sin of outspoken communication” was amplified by a consequence report in the student newspaper, University news. Disagreeing with aspects of this article, Hanssen said the cover itself put Atto on “public trial rather than just a heckling hidden in the bowels of Instagram.”

Hanssen further alleged that the newspaper, through its consistent coverage of issues of race, diversity, equity and inclusion, seeks to “effectively dismantle one of the last strongholds of faithfully Catholic liberal arts education.” . This type of coverage “feeds the flow of more diversity surveys, hiring more diversity officers, spending more money and providing more fodder for diversity, diversity, diversity.”

Guessing that she will be the “next target,” Hanssen wrote, “my cautious teacher friends tell me that when they come for me I should take a firm stand on the book of Genesis:” Male and female, he’s got them. created. ‘Don’t risk your career for a fight over the name of the virus. Yet even though personal pronouns and gender remain Hanssen’s biggest concern, she said “the ‘Chinese virus’ is not a bad hill to die on if it simply asserts the right to control its own. tongue. Abuse of language is abuse of power.

It is “time for this Catholic university to take a stand,” said Hanssen. She asked if the university asked big questions such as “What is courage?” “In an” abstract and theoretical “way or if it is also about” a place which gives to the students a living model of the virtues which they espouse verbally “.

The university declined to comment on the matter on Tuesday.

Hanssen said by email that she would like the university to clarify that there has been no direct complaint from the students, beyond what has emerged on social media, and “apologizes for ‘having given in to social media attacks against a professor.

She also said she expected “a stronger defense of Professor Atto from one of the top Catholic conservative colleges in the country.” Our alumni, parents and students rightly expect us to challenge the political correctness regime rather than bow down to it. UD says they will defend our right to use masculine / feminine pronouns when the time comes, but “cowardice today is a bad promise of heroism tomorrow” (quoting Dominican Sertillange) ” [sic].

This is not the first time that a teacher has called COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus” in the classroom. Syracuse University put a professor on administrative leave last year because he included a note on “Wuhan flu or the Chinese Communist Party virus” in his chemistry curriculum. Syracuse has also publicly condemned the “derogatory language” as offensive to Asian students who have experienced hate speech related to the pandemic, and as generally “damaging to the learning environment”. Syracuse alleged that the professor created a hostile learning environment based on national origin, against the expectations of ethical conduct included in the faculty manual.

Many on campus applauded the decision, as the term “Chinese virus”, like other stigmatizing languages, has been show perpetuate the sense that Asian Americans are lifelong strangers, putting them at greater risk of discrimination.

Some free speech advocates, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, have criticized Syracuse. In a letter at the university, FIRE said the university restricts professors’ rights of expression and that the program is an “academic forum” in which professors are free to discuss controversial topics.

Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell professor of politics at Princeton University and chairman of the academic committee of the Academic Freedom Alliance, said there was “nothing wrong with a professor voluntarily deciding to change the language of a program after an issue has been raised by a student or administrator. “Responding to and accommodating criticism” is part of the concessions we would expect on a college campus, “he said declared, “assuming the criticisms are not substantiated by a threat of sanction”.

It’s unclear exactly how the University of Dallas asked Atto to change his program, but the change was not entirely voluntary. Whittington said the curricula are somewhat of a “mixed place,” meaning they can include both university policies and faculty course materials. Typically, he said, a teacher’s content “appears to be protected under academic freedom, just as content in other courses would be.”

The question then becomes “whether this particular content is somehow outside the bounds of protected academic freedom,” he said. A university may want to claim that references to the “Chinese virus” are discriminatory harassment and therefore not protected by academic freedom, Whittington continued, but he said in this case “such a claim looks very dubious.”

Even though the “Chinese virus” offends some, he said, “the mere use of the phrase in a program cannot be understood as reaching the level of prosecutable harassing behavior.” And an academic harassment policy worded “so broadly as to prohibit such pervasive expression of ideas” “would significantly infringe upon traditional conceptions of academic freedom.”

Jonathan Friedman, director of free speech and education at PEN America, had a similar opinion, saying university leaders could “try to educate the professor in question about it, but they shouldn’t diktats that he will make this change or fear retaliation. “

Atto’s is a case where “the best result can be obtained by protecting the word of everyone involved,” Friedman also said.

A professor “must have the academic freedom to include the language of his choice in his program, just as students must have the right to use their speech to draw attention to it, whether on social networks or in the student newspaper, ”he said. At the same time, “certain speeches are harmful, and especially in the context of the rise of hate crimes, it is up to the professors, in their position of leadership and authority, to understand how their choices of expression on a program are. received by their students ”.


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