A University of Cincinnati professor is on administrative leave for referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” in an email to a student.
John L. Ucker, an adjunct instructor in the university’s engineering and applied sciences department, was put on leave with pay effective immediately on Friday — one day after engineering student Evan Sotzing posted an email he received from Ucker on Twitter that went viral, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
“For students testing positive for the chinese virus, I will give no grade,” the email from Ucker’s university account read. “You can read the info I sent to the class re: the torsion test.”
Sotzing, a 20-year-old junior, said he got the email after his girlfriend tested positive for the coronavirus, causing him to miss a lab due to guidance from the university’s health department instructing him to quarantine over the potential exposure.
“I really just want him to apologize,” Sotzing told WKRC. “I want a sincere apology for his comment.”
Sotzing said he was shocked that “anyone in power” would use such xenophobic language. His post with Ucker’s email had been retweeted 37,700 times as of early Wednesday and prompted a response from the university’s president.
“There is no place for bigotry in our community or any other,” UC President Neville Pinto tweeted Friday. “Every Bearcat deserves to feel welcome, respected and supported. Greatness starts with inclusion. And inclusion starts with each of us.”
The university’s dean of engineering and applied sciences told Ucker in an email Friday that his courses would be handled by another faculty member, the Enquirer reports.
“As you are aware, a student in one of your courses has raised a concern regarding one of your emails,” the message read. “As such, effective immediately you are being placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of that review.”
A message seeking comment from Ucker, who has taught at the university since 1996, was not immediately returned early Wednesday.
President Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” including as recently as Tuesday during an address to the United Nations General Assembly.
“We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy, the China virus, which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries,” Trump said while accusing the nation of bungling the coronavirus pandemic.