Professor Joel Poor of the University of Missouri – Columbia (MU) was relieved of teaching duties last Monday. Poor was reprimanded by the university for comments he made to an international student earlier that day.
The now viral twitter clip that spurred the investigation captured the introductions for his virtual marketing class. In the clip, Poor asks if there were any international students in the class. One student responded that they were from China, which caused Poor to probe further. The student revealed they were from Wuhan, the province that the coronavirus is believed to have originated from.
“Wuhan? Oh, let me get my mask on,” said Poor in response.
The comment has drawn large amounts of criticism from the student body for being xenophobic and racist. Poor has since clarified in an email that the comment was intended to be a joke and apologized for any offense the comment may have caused.
“I have nothing but respect and love for the Chinese people and especially my students from China,” Poor stated in the email.
Some students feel as though the comment, while offensive, was intended to be harmless. A Change.org petition to keep the professor employed currently has almost 9,000 of its 10,000 signature goal.
“While there is no room for this in the classroom, Joel gave an honest apology to his students,” the petition by MU business student Mark Moghadam states. “Please give your signature if you believe Professor Poor deserves a second chance.”
Others feel that Poor is out of chances. Former MU journalism student Morgan Keith said in a tweet, “Anyone who has taken a class with Joel Poor knows this is not the first time he’s said something sexist, racist and/or inappropriate.”
She is not alone.
“He has made horribly inappropriate comments for years and I am so glad he is no longer teaching,” tweeted Lillie Heigl, another MU journalism student.
In an effort to fund Poor, a social media account called FreeJoelPoor has created a line of merchandise – shirts, polos and mugs – emblazoned with an image of the professor and the phrase “Free Joel Poor.” The account has promised that half of all proceeds will go directly to Poor.
Currently Poor remains on staff, though the university’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX has opened an ongoing investigation into the incident.