In an unconventional move, the Vice-Chancellor sent an email to all University staff and students on Monday 3 amid reports of xenophobia in the city following the global coronavirus outbreak.
In the email, Professor Chris Day addressed the growing levels of anxiety about the spread of the Coronavirus, which he said has led to “behaviours that are unhelpful, and in some cases, deeply shocking”.
He asked students to consider the situation for students who have travelled back to Newcastle from China in recent weeks and find themselves in the middle of a situation that is completely outside their control, with “no doubt many of them worrying about family and friends who are still in China”.
Day emphasised the importance of the University community coming together to show support for Chinese colleagues and staff, and explained how we need to find the right balance between taking every precaution to halt the spread of the virus and considering the emotional wellbeing of people affected. Day asked students to consider the wider perspective, explaining that only two cases of the Coronavirus have been identified in the UK and the level of threat to individuals has not increased. Day quoted Professor Brian Schmidt, who argued: “viruses don’t discriminate. And neither do we.”
Day described his appal at seeing alarming social media posts describing students facing racist incidents in Newcastle in light of the outbreak, and urged any victims or witnesses of such harassment to report the incidents to the Police to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day praised the Student Health and Wellbeing team’s response, which has included offering support and answering all queries, but urged individual students to consider their actions carefully.
He concluded by stating: “We are one University and one community and when things are difficult this is when we most need to come together to support each other.”
Last modified: 10th February 2020