A professor at Purdue University referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” in a class syllabus, prompting several students to complain.
Randy Rapp, a professor at Purdue, incorporated the term “Wuhan virus” into his syllabus for a class on construction management. The phrase refers to the province in China where COVID-19 was first discovered.
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Critics of the phrase say referring to COVID-19 or any other theory to the disease’s origin as the “Wuhan virus” is racially tinged and invites harassment and racism toward ethnic Asians.
Rapp defended his use of the phrase in an interview with the Purdue student newspaper, the Exponent, arguing a reference "to the most likely location of origin of a pestilence harms nothing and no one, and it is a simple convention applied to many diseases on the CDC website.”
“The simple Wuhan label was published in the syllabus before the semester began and earlier in assorted communications of mine since the disease struck us in earnest. So many people read the words the past 22 months and said nothing about the term — rightfully not,” Rapp told the Exponent.
In an email to the Washington Examiner, Rapp declined to comment, saying, “I have assorted duties at Purdue involving much more substantive matters that demand my time before the break.”
The Exponent reported Rapp removed the language from his syllabus following the student complaints but cited a Purdue student who said Rapp’s use of the term was political because “the only person I heard call [COVID-19] that is Donald Trump.”
“He still sees no wrong with it,” the student told the Exponent. “I really do want him just to learn, to actually see the perspective on why it’s not OK.”
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In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, numerous news outlets and public figures often referred to the disease by its city of origin, later discarding the term.