A professor at University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is being investigated by the school's administration for a blog post critical of the Chinese government in relation to the origins of the coronavirus. Some took issue with the colorful language he used and misinterpreted it as an attack on people of Chinese descent.
“If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle,” Professor Thomas Smith wrote in the March 10 blog posted on The Right Coast.
After students complained, Smith clarified that the phrase “Chinese cock Swaddle” was in reference to the Chinese government, not Chinese people.
“It appears that some people are interpreting my reference to ‘Chinese cock swaddle,' as a reference to an ethnic group. That is a misinterpretation. To be clear, I was referring to the Chinese government,” Smith wrote in an update to the blog.
However, regardless of the update, the university is investigating to determine if he violated any policies.
According to a report on the San Diego Union-Tribune, the USDA's office of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association “filed a formal complaint with the help of the Student Bar Association” after a student uncovered Smith's post.
A report on KGTV says that the School of Law dean, Robert Schapiro, wrote a letter addressed to students about the issue, saying that a member of the faculty used “offensive language in reference to people from China.” The letter added that “there will be a process to review whether university or law school policies have been violated.”
In a statement to The College Fix, a university spokesperson said, “While the blog is not hosted by the University of San Diego, these forms of bias, wherever they occur, have an adverse impact on our community.”
“It is especially concerning when the disparaging language comes from a member of our community. A core value of the University of San Diego School of Law is that all members of the community must be treated with dignity and respect.
“University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin, among other categories,” Gomez stated.
“We have received formal complaints relating to the faculty member's conduct, and in accordance with university procedures, there will be a process to review whether university or law school policies have been violated,” the spokesperson added.
Some have defended Smith, noting the misinterpretation of Smith's blog post.
“The faculty member in question made a political comment in forceful language. He has the right and perhaps the obligation as a citizen and an academic to comment on matters of public concern such as the Chinese government's handling of COVID, and to do so in evocative and forceful language,” seven faculty members of USD School of Law wrote in a letter to the dean.
“No fair, much less lawyerly way of reading what he wrote would conclude anything other than that “Chinese cock swaddle” was referring to propaganda of the Chinese government and surely not denigrating people of Chinese origin or descent. The context makes this perfectly clear,” the letter continued.
“We are concerned that treating these complaints the way you are doing validates student reactions and strained interpretations that are misguided, that reflect a lack of critical thinking, and that will chill faculty members' teaching and scholarship. We sincerely hope it will be possible to work together to find a better way,” the letter concluded.