After Evan Sotzing's girlfriend tested positive for COVID-19, the University of Cincinnati student says the school's health department instructed him to self-isolate. That meant he had to miss an in-person lab under adjunct professor John Ucker, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. The reaction Sotzing received from Ucker was not at all what he expected. "Not only did my professor give me a zero for not going, but this was his response," Sotzing tweeted last Thursday along with a screenshot of the email Ucker had sent to him. That message from Ucker, who, per his personnel file, has taught at the school for more than 25 years: "For students testing positive for the chinese (sic) virus, I will give no grade," the email noted, with additional instructions on further reading materials.
Sotzing's post has since gone viral, and though he's since clarified he didn't know whether Ucker was giving him a zero or simply not awarding any grade, he was still offended by Ucker's "racist" wording and wants to see the school take "disciplinary actions." The school has placed Ucker on administrative leave as its Office of Equal Opportunity and Access looks into the matter. "These types of xenophobic comments and stigmatizations around location or ethnicity are more than troubling," John Weidner, dean of the school's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in an email to CNN. But in a statement cited by Inside Higher Ed, a rep for free-speech group PEN America says that although Ucker exercised "poor [judgment]" and the college should decry it, he shouldn't face "a disciplinary response to a single statement." No comment yet from Ucker. (Read more University of Cincinnati stories.)