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University investigating professor for allegedly using term 'Chinese virus'

"Xenophobic comments and stigmatizations around location or ethnicity are more than troubling," a statement from a school official said.
The University of Cincinnati campus.
The University of Cincinnati campus.Michael Hickey / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

The University of Cincinnati is investigating after a student reported an adjunct professor referred to the coronavirus as "the chinese virus" in an email denying the student a grade on a lab he missed while quarantining.

Student Evan Sotzing wrote in a tweet that after his girlfriend tested positive for Covid-19, he followed school policy to quarantine and did not attend an in-person lab. He said his professor, John Ucker, gave him a zero for missing the lab, and used a derogatory term for the coronavirus in his email informing him of the grade.

"For students testing positive for the chinese virus, I will give no grade," the email from Ucker, a mechanical engineering adjunct, said, according to Sotzing.

John Weidner, the dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, said the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access was reviewing Ucker's email.

"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 said in a statement.

Weidner also said Ucker has a policy of dropping one lab grade, so Sotzing's missed grade would not be recorded.

"Academic accommodations 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," Weidner added.

Ucker did not respond to multiple email requests for comment.

Sotzing could not immediately be reached for comment.

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