So here’s a 1.3-minute video showing a virtual class with Professor Joel Poor, who teaches marketing at the University of Missouri at Columbia (“Mizzou”). What he said here led to his being relieved of all of his teaching duties. (He’s not fired—at least not yet.)
It’s mind blowing to me that they will fire someone over a 10 second video. If Mizzou wasn’t trying to upset people they did a pretty bad job at doing it because there’s plenty of people upset because they ripped this mans career right out from under him. @Mizzou #freejoelpoor pic.twitter.com/z1kJeHyrXc
— Hunterlarr (@HazeFlave) August 25, 2020
The story is recounted in this article in Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot to read):
If you’re at all attuned to the Zeitgeist, you’ll know that Poor’s comment about “Where’s my mask?” could, if you’re sufficiently Pecksniffian, be interpreted as offensive. But it was also interpreted as racist, though that’s a bit of a stretch since he seems to be joking about where the student is from, not the fact that he’s Chinese. Nevertheless, it was deemed racist after complaints, and Poor, though he still has his job, has been relieved of his teaching duties. He’s also being investigated by Mizzou’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX.
Now I wouldn’t have made that comment, as it could be seen as a joke at the student’s expense, but it’s followed by welcoming banter from Poor and an offer to put up the student if he needs housing. I see it as an awkward comment that, at the most, would have had the professor called into the chairman’s office with an admonition like “Please don’t make any comments like that again; they could be interpreted as humor at a student’s expense.” And that would be it.
Poor even tendered an apology, which seems heartfelt and even creative:
“During today’s 11 am class, I made a joke about needing to put on a mask after a student said he was from Wuhan,” Poor wrote to students in the class. “I made the joke in the context of where the virus started. This was put on Twitter without the context that I immediately followed up with ‘I’ve only been to Chongqing and Shanghai’ and then asking the student about potential problems traveling to/from the U.S./to China. To anyone who was offended by my comments, I sincerely apologize and I want to communicate unequivocally that I have nothing but respect and love for the Chinese people and especially my students from China. But the most important point you need to understand from a marketing perspective is that what I did was wrong and here is why.
“1. In marketing, perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t intend to offend someone, the fact that I did is what counts. When someone tells us we did something wrong, we need to be humble, not defensive and learn from it,” he wrote. “2. I should have been more sensitive. Even though I am totally supportive of the Chinese people/students, the political context here in the U.S. is not. I should have realized that and refrained from commenting like I did.”
I doubt that this will help. Granted, one Twitter user said that Poor has previously made similar “sexist, racist, and/or inappropriate comments,” but those apparently weren’t reported, and so we have to judge him on this comment alone. I think he’s gotten a raw deal and should be reinstated with a warning to watch his mouth.
Such is the climate today that a prof can be relieved of his teaching duties—and since he’s an “Associate Teaching Professor”, that may mean his job—for a remark like the one above. I can imagine that if a white student were coming back from Wuhan, Poor would have said the same thing, and of course that wouldn’t have been racism, but placeism. And that’s how I see the comment—as placeist.
What these disciplinarians seem to lack is a sense of empathy and forgiveness. It’s not surprising, too, that some students have even called for Poor to be fired.
Here: let’s get some opinion:
If you want to sign a petition asking Mizzou to keep on Poor as a professor, go here.