College shows commitment to equity amid virus onset

Samuel Casey

News Editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, President Sarah Bolton sent an email to the Wooster community regarding recent concerns about the coronavirus and questions raised by students, faculty and staff. According to the New York Times, the coronavirus is a “novelty respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China [that] has spread quickly throughout the country and to two dozen other nations, leaving many experts to fear a pandemic may be on the way.” Most of those infected have been in mainland China, but both the World Heath Organization and United States have declared public health emergencies. As of Feb. 18, around 72,500 people have been infected with almost 2,000 fatalities.

In her email, Bolton shared information about the precautions the College is taking.

“Our Wellness Center staff, and emergency planning teams are fol- lowing all advice of the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department ofHealth,”she stated.“We received updates daily from the local and state health departments.”

Regarding precautions that should be taken, the College has been advised to “follow normal health protocols,” which includes washing hands often, coughing or sneezing into sleeves and making the Wellness Center aware of the situation. The College does not recommend wearing a mask.

Bolton also explained how it is important to be aware of how the virus affects people differently in the campus community.

“Although there is no coronavirus in our area at this time, many in our community are deeply affected by the outbreak, as they are worried about friends or family at home, or unable to see loved ones due to travel restric- tions,” she said. “It is also the case that many Asian and Asian-American people are experiencing heightened xenophobia, bias or discrimination.”

According to Ivonne García, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer (CDEIO), “International Student Services (ISS) has been very proactive in reaching out to our Chinese students

…All Center for Diversity and Inclusion(CDI)directors and staff stand united in the effort to support all students, especially those who feel targeted during this time.”

Jill Munro, director of ISS, explained that the College has responded in several ways in addition to Bolton’s email. This includes sending an email to international students to offer support, the Chinese Department hosting a Lantern Festival, informing faculty about the stress, stigma and micro aggressions that Asian and Asian-American students are facing, and Bolton hosting an open house for Chinese faculty, staff and students.

Regarding travel restrictions for students for spring break, Munro said that only students flying to China would be affected.

“Currently, Chinese students who live in China are not able to travel home due to flight restrictions into the country,” she stated, “and if they are able to get a flight, they might be able to get in, but not be able to get out or return to the U.S.”

Munro also shared at the February faculty meeting that an Asian student had overheard racist comments from other students, but no bias reports have been filed.

In light of this incident, García spoke about how the campus can be adequately respectful during times like this.

“My advice is that we all join in efforts to be actively anti-racist, and to be more self-aware of or own positionality and privilege so that we can avoid engaging in racist and xenophobic actions or comments that cause harm to our fellow community members,” she informed. “The College of Wooster has a unique history of inclusion in its very founding, and I want to encourage every member of this community to actively engage with that historic commitment to the cause of equity and inclusion.”

Yuxuan (Katie) Ke ’20, a student from China, offered advice on how to act given the situation.

“Coronavirus is like any other epidemic in the world. It is not a race- specific disease, and it is a serious trauma for everyone being affected by the outbreak, regardless of their origins,” Ke stated. “I think the best way to support the Chinese community at Wooster is simply to recognize that we are all members of this community.

And let your friends know if you are thinking of them too, though not everyone is comfortable sharing personal stories. If you notice your friend is expressing emotional fluctuation, please try to understand their situation and be there for them when they need you.”

García noted that CDEIO Program Coordinator Kayla Campbell will host office hours in the evening once a week to help others understand the resources available.

Bolton’s email provided additional resources for students, including contact for the Wellness Center, Munro, MacKenzie Bowen, assistant director of ISS and Carol Knoble, international student coordinator. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of discrimination should file an online report available on the College’s web- site. Anyone with interest in traveling to China or any country affected by the coronavirus should contact Candace Chenoweth, director of global engagement or Jamie Adler, assistant director of global engagement.

“Wooster is a global community,” Bolton stated, “and we will support one another in the face of this challenge, which is rapidly evolving and may take significant time to resolve. We will keep [the College community] informed of any changes to health advice or other developments.”

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