Letter to the editor
Editors note: This letter remains in the condition in which it was sent.
Recently, Jon Zubieta, a professor at Syracuse University was placed on administrative leave from teaching because he used the words "Wuhan Flu" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus" in his syllabus. I am a Chinese graduate student of UB, but I totally cannot agree with the arbitrary decision made by Syracuse University. Even I do not think the professor did anything wrong. This is a question worth discussing, because Syracuse University is next to us, now UB opens again, many professors and students will talk about COVID-19 when socializing, so we should have a clear understanding of this matter.
As a native Chinese, I do not feel offended when I heard these words. First of all, in fact, many Chinese people use the words "Wuhan Flu" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus". In my experience, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, people use these two words frequently. In January 2020, when the pandemic just broke out in Wuhan, people in mainland China were also using the word "Wuhan Flu". However, with the spread of the epidemic, China banned the use of these two words.
Second, the reason why the Chinese Communist Party forbids people to use these two words is because it wants to cover up the shortcomings of its system. At the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, several doctors in Wuhan posted information about the pandemic on social media urging people to pay attention, but they were immediately arrested by police. If people had paid attention to the opinions of these doctors at that time, the situation in Wuhan would have been much better than later. This is exactly the problem of the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party. The two words "Wuhan Flu" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus" easily remind people of the shortcomings of the Communist Party system, and that is the reason that the Chinese Communist Party forbids people to use these two words.
At last, what the professor said has nothing to do with racial discrimination. I am not a racist. A few months ago, when the Graduate History Association issued a statement in support of the BLM movement, I signed my name on it. But the situation in China is different from that in the United States. For a long time, black Americans have been oppressed by the system. Although the system of racial segregation has been abolished, some words still represent racism and white supremacy, so these words are not allowed to be used. However, the words "Wuhan Flu" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus" do not represent racism, but expose the problems of the Communist Party System and promote people's reflection on the dictatorship system. On the contrary, the Chinese Communist Party forbids the use of these two words, which is a kind of oppressive autocratic hegemony. Therefore, it is unreasonable for Syracuse University to claim that the professor has damaged the academic environment of equality and inclusiveness on campus. In my opinion, freedom of speech is not only the fundamental right of citizens protected by the constitution of the United States, but also the basis of diversified campus environment. The rights of this professor should also be protected. The fear of offending the Chinese Communist Party or Chinese students and destroying freedom of speech on American campuses is an appeasement of the autocratic system, which is not a good lesson for the next generation of scholars. As someone commented on the Syracuse University's Facebook page “Stop the tail from wagging the dog”.
All in all, I think the decision of Syracuse University is unreasonable. Syracuse University should withdraw the punishment for professors, and it is not wise for UB to make any restrictions on the expression of COVID-19.
Tianyu Liu graduate student in History Department firstname.lastname@example.org