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UDallas Professor Revises Syllabus After “China Virus” Backlash


An associate professor of history at the University of Dallas referred to COVID-19 as “China virus” in his syllabus, prompting university officials to call for revisions.

The University News — a student publication — reported that Dr. William Atto used the label to explain safety protocols and policies to be followed during his American Civilization 1 course. 

Photos of the syllabus immediately made rounds on social media. The Asian Student Association voiced its opinion on Instagram, denouncing Atto’s actions as fueling Asian-American discrimination.

“By using ‘China-virus’ as a way to address COVID-19, it promotes discrimination against Asian Americans since it condemns them to be the cause of the virus,” the student association said.

Fueling Anti-Asian Sentiment

Public health officials have warned against the use of terms that may aggravate race-based discrimination and xenophobia, even releasing stricter guidelines for naming viruses in 2015. 

Racial harassment and violence against Asians has increased during the pandemic, as many blame them for bringing COVID-19 into the country. 

Following the backlash, Atto has since emailed his students a revised version of his syllabus. But he refused to comment on the matter to The University News.

“It has come to my attention that the syllabus I handed out yesterday had language regarding Covid that was inconsistent with University of Dallas policy, so I have attached a revised syllabus to bring into accord with that policy,” the email read. 

University President Jonathan Sanford issued a statement to the student newspaper. “Dr. Atto has for 20 years been providing excellent formation of our students at the University of Dallas, and when he was informed that some offense had been taken at his use of a term that is now rarely used he readily altered the policy section of his syllabus to refer to the university’s protocols regarding COVID using the term the university uses to describe those protocols.”

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