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Professor Revises Syllabus after Using “China Virus” Label

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A professor at the University of Dallas, Dr. William Atto, has changed his course syllabus after a student complained that he referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”

According to a report in the student newspaper, Atto, an associate professor of history, used the term in his American Civilization 1 course to detail quarantine procedures and policies.

The school’s Asian Student Association, alongside others, denounced the label. A post the student association made on Instagram says, “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.”

On Aug. 26, Atto’s class members received an email with a corrected version of the syllabus. According to the student newspaper, the new version referred to the coronavirus as “Covid virus.” “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 of Dallas President Jonathan Sanford said in a statement that Atto changed his syllabus after learning that a student was offended by his choice of words. “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,” he said.

When asked to make comments on the matter, Atto declined.

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