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Rutgers community weighs in on discrimination due to coronavirus

<p>Casey Xu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said many Chinese students wear masks to stay healthy, not because they are already sick.</p>

Casey Xu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said many Chinese students wear masks to stay healthy, not because they are already sick.

University President Robert L. Barchi sent an email on Thursday to staff and faculty addressing student claims of discrimination related to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

University administration learned that some Chinese and international students have faced inappropriate questioning by faculty and staff about their health and exposure to the virus, Barchi said in his email. He asked that staff and faculty hold to values of respect, diversity and inclusion during this time.

“Faculty and staff have no right to a student’s private medical information, and I ask that you not question them,” he said. “It is also not permissible to require documentation from a healthcare provider to attend or return to class.” 

Casey Xu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he has not experienced stereotyping or discrimination at Rutgers but has seen offensive comments on social media outlets like Instagram.

“People think not allowing Chinese people to come can solve the problem. I mean in some ways it really can, but I’m feeling offended,” he said.

These comments, he said, are not from the Rutgers community but from people around the Rutgers area.

“I think they are talking about the general situation in America. I can understand that worry,” he said.

Xu said he would describe Rutgers as a family that does not discriminate against anyone.

“That’s one reason I feel loved in the Rutgers community. My friends, my teammates, they are not trying to stay away from me (due to) the coronavirus,” he said.

With students and faculty from all over the world, Barchi said that faculty and staff should treat students with care.

“Our community includes thousands of students from China, many of whom may be experiencing anxiety about this illness because they have friends and family in the affected region of that country,” he said. “I ask that you be sensitive and respectful in supporting your students. Stereotyping students or others (due to) their ethnicity is not only unlawful, (but also) it is a violation of University policy and goes against our values as an inclusive community.”

Some students from Wuhan, China, said Yuhui Xiao, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, have pledged to distance themselves from others despite not being affected by the coronavirus.

“The thing is I don’t know what’s going on either,” Xiao said. “But (what) I do know is that those students who came back from Wuhan made an announcement in our WeChat group chat. They said they will isolate themselves while having class. People shouldn’t be afraid of them.”

Barchi said, staff and faculty are responsible for creating a supportive climate for students. The University, he said in the email, is working to assist students affected by this situation with concerns related to courses, housing and dining.

In his email, Barchi also said that faculty and staff should not assume a student is sick if he or she is wearing a mask.

Xu said there is a misunderstanding of why some students wear masks.

“I think that’s different thoughts between Chinese students and American people,” he said. “For the students, they are not sick, they are worried about being infected so they wear the mask to prevent the virus. For other people, they think the reason why Chinese students wear masks is because they are sick.”

Xu said he wore a mask once to his church’s Sunday service to be safe in a public area, but because people thought he was sick, he has not worn a mask since then.

“Anyone may get sick, so please don’t isolate the Chinese or anyone who is connected to China. Your discrimination against the patients will make them ashamed of themselves,” Xu said. “Your discrimination may let them hide the illness or reject protecting others.”

Xu said he feels the Chinese government is trying their best to shut down a difficult virus.

“We are fighting against the virus, not the Chinese,” he said. “The more the emergency arises, the more need for calm, humanity and unity.”

Everyone can make a little change to combat the coronavirus, Xu said.

“Remember to wash your hands frequently, use your elbows to cover when sneezing or coughing,” he said.

In his email, Barchi said that there are no actual or suspected cases of coronavirus at Rutgers and there is no need to interrupt daily life.

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