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Minnesota college censors reference to coronavirus China origin for COVID after complaint

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A website run by the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota removed a reference to China as the origin of the pandemic after a student filed a complaint through the university’s bias reporting system.

Many feel that bias reporting systems are being abused and have a chilling effect on free speech.

According to The College Fix, the University of Minnesota encouraged students to report suspected bias “related to the COVID-19 outbreak” through its Bias Response and Referral Network. The universities’ news outlet filed a public records request, asking the university for all COVID-19 bias reports filed in the past year.

From the documents provided, the outlet learned that a complaint had resulted in the university changing a reference to China as the origin of the pandemic on one of its websites.

“A student reported that an article by the School of Public Health’s [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy] website used language that suggested that COVID-19 started in China and questioned if this was biased language,” a November 23, 2020 complaint said. “Responded to the reporter and shared that their email was forwarded to CIDRAP so they can address the matter.”

Indeed CIDRAP did address the issue. An archived version of the web page, from March 5 2020, stated: “CIDRAP is tracking and analyzing the rapidly evolving worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease that originated in China.”

Now, the statement reads: “CIDRAP is tracking and analyzing the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

A student at the university also reported a professor for requesting students to pray for then-President Donald Trump, who had been diagnosed with Covid at the time.

“A student wrote to report that a professor during a Zoom lecture urged students to pray for the President of the U.S. who has COVID-19,” read the complaint, filed on October 2, 2020.

The team running the bias reporting system also forwarded this complaint to the equal opportunity office. It is not clear what action, if any, was taken.

The two reports show how bias reporting systems can be abused, something some experts have already warned about.

“Students frequently reported for discussing political and religious topics – which are constitutionally protected on public university campuses, much to the chagrin of these bureaucratic star chambers,” said Nicole Neily, an education reformer who serves as the president of the Parents Defending Education and Speech First.

In the interview with The College Fix last month, Neily added: “Bias response teams send a clear message not only that certain opinions are wrong but that the correct coping method, when confronted with such a situation, is to ‘go tell the grownups.’”

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