School warns students not to be 'racist,' 'xenophobic' about coronavirus in campus-wide email

He warned against “fear… about the ‘other’ person in our midst.”

Andrews University Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Nixon quoted a person at AU who complained to him about being treated rudely and with suspicion over coronavirus “just because I'm Asian” and “wearing a face mask."

In response to the global health pandemic caused by the coronavirus and allegations of “racist” and “xenophobic” behavior surrounding the virus, Andrews University Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Nixon sent a university-wide email in February.

Nixon noted that at the time of his writing there were already dozens of thousands of confirmed cases and more than one thousand deaths, the vast majority of which “have occurred in China.”  Nixon then transitioned the focus of his email, stating, “I want to reflect directly on the unreasonable fear that sometimes accompanies the ways we perceive, welcome and care for each other within our Andrews University community, especially at challenging moments like these.” 

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“In this particular situation with global healthcare risks, we discover that sometimes the most immediate fear is often about the ‘other’ person in our midst. At times we may even perceive those individuals or groups to be a potential and direct risk to our own health or safety, based solely on the individual’s appearance or cultural heritage rather than documented health risk factors,” Nixon continued. 

The vice president of diversity and inclusion added that he had been “talking about these concerns and realities with several of our Asian students… including [students from] China.” 

Nixon continued by explaining that he had “received letters from Asian members of our [Andrews] University community,” and that one of those individuals experienced “racist” and “xenophobic” behavior by other people who fear becoming infected by the coronavirus. 

Nixon quoted the individual: 

“This particular letter and other recent conversations have indicated to me that concerns like these move beyond simply a fear of contracting a disease to having a perspective that’s influenced by xenophobic fears or racist tropes against our Asian community members, on this campus or around the world,” said Nixon. He included a link to a CNN article titled “As the coronavirus spreads, fear is fueling racism and xenophobia.”

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Campus Reform has previously reported on how a now-deleted Instagram post by the University of California Berkeley called “Xenophobia” a “common reaction” to coronavirus. The university later deleted the post. 

“The letter Vice President Nixon shared with campus intended to respond to the tragic global reality (experienced on our own campus, as well) of a perception that anyone who appears to be Asian may be infected by the Covid-19 virus-based solely on their appearance and/or ethnicity,” Special Assistant to University President Stephen Payne told Campus Reform

“The letter also reflects an Andrews University commitment to assure the dignity and value of every individual in our community, and to call for improvements when we fall short of those goals,” Payne added.

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