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Univ. of Missouri professor ‘relieved of teaching duties’ for cracking Wuhan joke in class

An associate teaching professor at the University of Missouri revealed that he was “relieved of teaching duties” after a video surfaced of him making a Wuhan joke with a student in his Marketing 3000 class. However, UM has since denied that he was fired, saying that professor Joel Poor “remains employed at Mizzou.”

Mizzou spokesman Christian Basi claimed in a follow-up statement that the professor has not been let go completely and has instead been “assigned to other duties.” He added that he will “be provided due process,” according to Campus Reform.

In the brief clip, Professor Joel Poor asks where the student is from, with the young man responding that he is from Wuhan, China.

“Oh, let me get my mask on,” Poor joked as he motioned putting his mask on. The joke referred to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic originated in China.

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Poor indicates that he was joking before the clip ends, and the student clearly understood that as well. Other students who were in the Zoom class also seemed to know that the professor was joking.

“The kid was not even offended and you could clearly tell it was a joke,” one student in the class said.

“I know the guy who was on the other end of this and he is from Wuhan, China. He has told me he was not offended and he thought the professor was just joking with him,” tweeted Missouri student Nathan Etheridge.

A longer version of the clip has since surfaced confirming that Poor was joking. It also shows that later in the conversation, the professor even offered the student a room in his home if it would help relieve any travel concerns about him coming back to America.

“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,” Poor wrote in an apology. “But the most important point you need to understand from a marketing perspective is that what I did was wrong…”

He added that “perception is reality” in marketing and that he is “totally supportive of the Chinese people/students” even though “the political context here in the US is not.”

“Professor Poor was an excellent teacher in the college of business. He enjoyed laughing and he always had jokes up his sleeve that would unleash roaring laughter in lecture halls,” said a former student of Poor. “He truly cared for all of his students in class and did whatever he could to ensure that we were learning in a positive and fun environment.”

Lacy Thompson, another student who was present during the Zoom call, said she was “disappointed, disgusted and disturbed” by what happened to Poor.

“This should have never gone to Twitter. This should have been addressed by the student this comment was addressed to (it was in fact NOT) if he was offended, then addressed by the University of the professor did not understand that the comment was offensive (if it was, in fact, offensive),” said Thompson.

“Rather than resulting in the termination of teaching duties of my professor, the University should have watched the entire video to then be informed that this professor was very sympathetic toward the student and offered any help he could,” she added. “Now I don’t have a professor and I have a heightened fear of backlash I could get for what I believe. And that’s that this was not justified.”

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