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U.S. law professor investigated over Chinese reference in coronavirus blog post

A law professor at the University of San Diego is under investigation after students complained about an offensive phrase he used in a blog post about China and the coronavirus.

The post was written by Thomas Smith, a professor at USD Law School since 1992, as part of his blog titled The Right Coast, where he usually offers personal commentary on the news.

The March 10 entry centers on a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that questions China’s cooperation in the World Health Organization’s investigation into allegations the coronavirus escaped of a virology laboratory. The allegation has so far not been substantiated.

“If you think the coronavirus didn’t escape the Wuhan lab, you should at least consider yourself an idiot who swallows a lot of Chinese diapers ****,” Smith wrote.

A student brought the message to the attention of the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association at SHU, and the group filed a formal complaint with the help of the Student Bar Association. The groups met with school officials on Thursday.

“In law school, we come here to learn how to forge words and make informed arguments,” said Ashley Thompson, sophomore law student and board member of the Association of Asians and Asians. Pacific Islanders. “He did the opposite. He ducked down to use dangerous rhetoric. This is part of why it is so disturbing and hurtful.

The Dean of SHU Law School on Wednesday sent a letter to students calling the language offensive and noting the increase in hate crimes and racist comments against the Asian and Pacific island community regarding the coronavirus and its origins.

“Although the blog is not hosted by the University of San Diego, these forms of prejudice, wherever they occur, are having a negative impact on our community,” wrote Robert Schapiro, who has taken over as dean. in January. “It’s especially concerning when the derogatory language comes from a member of our community. “

A spokesperson for the SHU said the conduct of the professor – who was not named in the letter – would be examined to determine whether university or law school policies had been violated.

“A core value of the University of San Diego Law School is that all members of the community should be treated with dignity and respect,” the spokesperson said. “University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or insults based on race or national origin, among other categories.”

Some time after the publication of the original blog post, an update was added to Smith’s comment: “It seems some people are interpreting my reference to ‘Chinese **** swaddle’ as a reference to a band. ethnic. This is a misinterpretation. To be clear, I was talking about the Chinese government.

Smith did not respond to a request for comment in emails sent to him and his assistant on Friday.

For Benjamin Cope, a first-year law student representing the Asian and Pacific Islands Student Association, the impact of words trumps intention.

“It might not have been his intention, but he chose a very, very specific, unique and colorful language,” Cope said. “I know everyone will have their opinion, but as someone who will be and has been affected by comments like this, I feel comfortable saying it was racist, it was offensive. “

Student groups are calling for Smith to be fired or to issue a formal apology and for the students to be allowed to withdraw from his classes. Other demands include the hiring of more diverse faculty by the university. The students also wrote an open letter to Smith asking for an apology.

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