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Purdue Professor Refers to COVID as the 'Wuhan Virus,' Prompting Student Complaints

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

A Purdue University professor referred to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus" in his syllabus, highlighting the location in which the virus originated, Wuhan, China, leading to a number of complaints from students.

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The professor, Randy Rapp, included the term in his class syllabus for a course on construction management and defended his decision to use the language in an email to his students following complaints.

"Ample facts showed us that the pestilence began in the Wuhan region," Rapp said. "Pundits on multiple networks with a wide range of political views commonly referred to the pandemic’s cause as the Wuhan coronavirus, and reportedly thousands of people there suffered badly and died from it before it was identified elsewhere. Wuhan virus is a simplification, not in the least illegal, immoral, unethical, inaccurate or dangerous. Of course, there is nothing political about that phrase."

Rapp also defended his use of the term in an interview with the school newspaper, the Exponent.

"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," he said. "So many people read the words the past 22 months and said nothing about the term — rightfully not."

He also pointed out to the paper that referencing "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," and cited examples of other diseases that include the location in which they originated, including the Hong Kong flu, Spanish flu, Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

However, the professor also noted in his email that he has decided to change the syllabus' wording following complaints, saying that, if students are "overwrought and reportedly unable to study, and since naming the Wuhan virus neither harms nor was meant to harm anyone, I will change the syllabus words soon."

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The term's detractors have said referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus" is rooted in racism and could lead to targeted harassment against Asians.

Several students took issue with the term because they feel it targets the Asian community, with one student telling the paper the language "is unfair to the 11 million people living in the city of Wuhan, as almost all residents are victims of the virus and thousands of families have lost their parents, children, relatives and friends."

Another student felt the professor was making a political statement by using the term in the syllabus because the only person they had heard refer to COVID as the "Wuhan virus" was former President Donald Trump.

But in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of media outlets and public figures referred to the virus by its city of origin before later slamming Trump and other Republicans who used the term.

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