University of Cincinnati is looking into an instructor that referred to Covid-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ in an email to student

A University of Cincinnati dean is investigating an email in which an instructor told a quarantined student who had to miss class that those “testing positive for the chinese virus” would not receive a grade.

a group of people walking in front of a house: The Tangeman University Center at the University of Cincinnati is seen on March 11.

© Alex Martin/Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today Network
The Tangeman University Center at the University of Cincinnati is seen on March 11.

Evan Sotzing, a 20-year-old engineering student, said on Twitter that his girlfriend had tested positive for Covid-19. The university’s health system asked him to quarantine as a precaution, he said, requiring him to miss an in-person lab session.

When he informed his instructor about this, he said he received an insensitive reply.

“Not only did my professor give me a zero for not going (to the lab session), but this was his response,” Sotzing tweeted on Thursday, along with a screenshot of an email from adjunct faculty member John Ucker.

“For students testing positive for the chinese virus, I will give no grade,” the message read. “You can read the info I sent to the class re: the torsion test. Mr. Ucker.”

John Weidner, UC’s dean of Engineering and Applied Science, confirmed to CNN that the screenshot of the email was legitimate.

CNN has reached out to Ucker via email but has not yet received a response.

“I was shocked at first that anyone in power like a professor, anyone that would just say that, because of how xenophobic it is and how racist of a comment it is, especially to a student,” Sotzing told CNN affiliate WKRC.

A university dean is reviewing the incident

Weidner told CNN that after Sotzing sent him the email thread, he assured him that he would investigate “what appeared to be a dismissive response of the student’s quarantine situation and the very insensitive xenophobic comments.”

He added that he had referred the incident to the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access for review.

“These types of xenophobic comments and stigmatizations around location or ethnicity are more than troubling,” Weidner wrote in an email to CNN. “We know 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 said that faculty are encouraged to be flexible with attendance policies and other matters around Covid-19 under the university’s “Return to Campus” guidelines.

“We are committed to academic accommodations since they are necessary to safeguard the health and safety of our students, and faculty are encouraged to be flexible with attendance policies and other aspects supporting academic progress — particularly for students in isolation and quarantine,” he wrote in an email.

Ucker does have an accommodation policy, Weidner added, but his email to Sotzing was “poorly worded.” The missed lab will not count against Sotzing, Weidner said.

Sotzing told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he and his girlfriend tested for the virus on September 4. Though he tested negative, he said, he was advised to quarantine for two weeks because his girlfriend had tested positive.

The lab session Sotzing had to miss was scheduled for September 15, he said. He added that his instructor did not reply to his email until after the class was over.

The University of Cincinnati reports that 321 students have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday. Data as of Wednesday shows 36 residential students in isolation and 54 in quarantine.

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