U of M removes reference to COVID-19’s Chinese origins

Students have also used the bias reporting system to complain about former President Donald Trump.

Background: University of Minnesota campus Right: Dr. Michael Osterholm

The University of Minnesota reportedly removed a reference on its website about COVID-19’s Chinese origins, according to a report from The College Fix.

The school’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) previously stated online that it was “tracking and analyzing the rapidly evolving worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease that originated in China.”

According to The Fix, a student filed a “bias complaint” about the statement because it referred to the virus’ Chinese origins, which allegedly prompted CIDRAP to remove the wording from its website.

“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 document obtained The Fix said. “Responded to the reporter and shared that their email was forwarded to CIDRAP so they can address the matter.”

The website now states that “CIDRAP is tracking and analyzing the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

It’s unclear exactly when the website was changed, but the University of Minnesota has encouraged students to report bias incidents regarding the “COVID-19 outbreak” to the school’s “Bias Response Referral Network.”

“We have heard that our Asian and Asian-American community members are experiencing bias incidents related to the COVID-19 outbreak,” that group’s website says. “We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed bias related to the COVID-19 outbreak to report the incident to the BRRN.”

The BRRN was founded in January 2016 at the direction of Eric Kaler, the university’s former president.

According to records obtained by The Fix, students have also used the bias reporting system to complain about former President Donald Trump.

“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,” a note about an October 2 complaint said.

The complaint was passed along to the school’s equal opportunity office, which appears to be BRRN’s standard practice. Its website states that it doesn’t actually “conduct investigations” or “take disciplinary action” but simply refers those who “report incidents to appropriate campus offices.”

CIDRAP, the department that removed the reference, is overseen by Dr. Michael Osterholm, who has faced criticism for his alarmist rhetoric.