The following reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.
At a press conference on Sunday, Miami University officials revealed the two Miami students suspected of having the coronavirus tested negative for the disease. This announcement came four days after the university notified the Miami community there may be coronavirus in Oxford.
“At a time like this, when you’re facing challenges, the best comes out in people,” University President Greg Crawford said during the press conference. “All around this campus, I really saw love and honor showing through in these challenging times.”
Apparently, Crawford wasn’t following the community’s reaction on social media as closely as we were.
Our staff was appalled by the people, specifically Miami parents, whose alarmist reactions allowed for speculation and fear mongering, demonstrated a total disregard for the well-being of our peers and were, ultimately, xenophobic.
An email was sent out last Tuesday informing the Miami community two students with suspected coronavirus awaited test results from the CDC. As soon as the notification was sent out, misconceptions about the isolated students and the coronavirus began to pop-up in various online communities, such as the Facebook page “Miami University | Parents and Family Members.”
Some posts, both within these groups and on social media in general, questioned why students from China were allowed to return to campus or why all Chinese students weren’t screened for the virus before being allowed to attend classes and other student activities.
Our staff understands why an individual's first reaction to news of suspected coronavirus would be to worry about their child’s health. But that fear does not justify being racist.
The initial announcement explained the two students were isolated from the rest of the student body. The university outlined how to stay up-to-date on the suspected cases in Oxford as well as best practices for disease prevention. Crawford pointed out the university was following procedures used by other major universities dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
On top of the daily health updates sent out by the university, The Miami Student and other local news sources closely covered the story.
Worry does not excuse fueling the fire of rumors. Concern does not condone racism.
Imagine you’re isolated in your room, thousands of miles from home and potentially sick with a virus that has been declared a global health emergency. Or that you are thousands of miles from home, perfectly healthy and facing vitriol from members of your community based off of where you’re from.
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We are not naive. We know that the possibility of coronavirus fueled prejudice among some students on this campus. It’s no secret how often international students are ignored by some of the domestic students on this campus. So when you have a group of people that are often marginalized and something like this happens, you have a recipe for ugliness.
But, there is a silver lining.
There was one incident reported to Dean of Students Kimberly Moore, but Moore told our reporters the majority of students who reached out to her within the last week wanted to know how they could help support students who were isolated.
Miami’s Associated Student Government published a letter detailing where students could find information on the coronavirus, how to prevent it, how to stay updated and reminded students and community members to uphold the Code of Love and Honor.
Hillel and Miami University’s Diversity Affairs Council released a statement condemning the xenophobia and racism directed toward members of the Asian community.
In the end, the majority of students on this campus demonstrated more empathy, level-headedness and maturity than many adults who tried to add to the discourse online and by calling the university in the past week.
Every day, we witness the ways that fear tactics are used to create false threats to our livelihood and scapegoat vulnerable populations. When facts are readily available to you, and you choose to ignore or dispute them, that is willful ignorance.
Use those critical thinking skills you’ve paid thousands of dollars to acquire here at Miami and recognize the best thing you can do is be sympathetic to the students that are directly impacted here and at their homes thousands of miles away.