U. of Cincinnati Declines Contract Renewal for Professor who Said ‘Chinese Virus’

WUHAN, CHINA - FEBRUARY 10: A man wears a protective mask on February 10, 2020 in Wuhan, China. Flights, trains and public transport including buses, subway and ferry services have been closed for the nineteenth day. The number of those who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, …
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The University of Cincinnati refused to renew the contract of a professor who was placed on leave last year after using the term “Chinese virus” in an email that he sent to a student.

The University of Cincinnati has declined to renew the contract of adjunct instructor John Ucker, who had taught at the university since 1996, according to a report by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“For students testing positive for the chinese (sic) virus, I will give no grade,” wrote Ucker last year in an email to a student, Evan Sotzing, who said he would have to miss an in-person lab due to having been possibly exposed to the Chinese coronavirus.

Sotzing subsequently posted a screenshot of the email to social media, where it went viral.

“My girlfriend tested positive for COVID and the University of Cincinnati’s Health Department instructed me to not attend my in-person lab. Not only did my professor give me a zero for not going, but this was his response,” lamented the student on Twitter.

At the time, the university’s Dean of Engineering and Applied Science John Weidner told Cincinnati Enquirer, “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 added.

Last September, Ucker was put on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an investigation by the university.

By November, Weidner released a statement updating the status of the investigation, saying that Ucker’s leave would continue for the rest of the fall semester.

“As an isolated reference, the term ‘Chinese virus’ did not meet the threshold to be designated harassment,” Weidner said. “However, it did represent poor judgment, caused offense to members of our community, and distracted from the learning environment.”

On Friday, a university spokesperson told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Ucker’s contract was not renewed.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler @alana, and on Instagram.

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