FIRE Comes to Defense of Prof Suspended for Using Term ‘Wuhan Flu’ on Syllabus
“Syracuse talks a big game when it comes to free speech, promising its students and faculty the full array of expressive rights”
We mentioned this story in an earlier quick take. Now the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has gotten involved.
From the FIRE blog:
Syr-accuse University: FIRE defends professor who joked about ‘Wuhan Flu’ as he remains on leave, banned from teaching
A joke about political correctness doesn’t have administrators at Syracuse University laughing. Instead, they are investigating a professor for discrimination and inappropriate conduct, and banned him from having any contact with students. Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education formally called on Syracuse to drop its investigation and immediately reinstate the professor.
Jon Zubieta, a chemistry professor of 30 years, included “Wuhan Flu or Chinese Communist Party Virus” on the section of his syllabus explaining university regulations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Aug. 25, the syllabus began circulating online, and the university sprang into action: issuing a statement on the “offensive” language, banning him from the classroom, and launching an investigation. Syracuse informed Zubieta he was to have no further contact with students until the investigation is complete.
“My intention was to mock the euphemistic conventions of PC culture rather than the Chinese people or their great heritage and traditions,” Zubieta said. “The actions of the university in placing me under suspension and in practice seemingly supporting the accusations of racism and Sinophobia are deeply disturbing.”
FIRE wrote to Syracuse today to remind administrators that although private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment, Syracuse is required to uphold its many laudable promises of free expression.
“Syracuse talks a big game when it comes to free speech, promising its students and faculty the full array of expressive rights,” said Zach Greenberg, author of FIRE’s letter. “Yet the university has become an inhospitable place for the free exchange of ideas, and the administration seems almost proud of how it consistently fails to uphold freedom of speech when challenged. Syracuse isn’t just forging the path for censorship in American higher education, they’re paving it orange and blue.”
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Professor Zubieta could take this opportunity to issue an apology:
“I regret having used the term Wuhan Flu in the syllabus. I should not have called it the Wuhan Flu. Calling it the Wuhan Flu suggests its origin as having been the Wuhan province in China, but that has not been definitively proven. Using the term Wuhan Flu accuses the Chinese without proof. It was a mistake to call it the Wuhan Flu, and I shall endeavor to never again refer to it as the Wuhan Flu.”