This letter was written by a group of biological sciences staff and faculty. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

A recent Mustang News story about inconsistent compliance with Cal Poly’s pandemic safety policies included some controversial statements by a faculty member from the Biological Sciences Department. One statement implied that members of our department shared these controversial views.

Therefore, the undersigned faculty and staff of the Biological Sciences Department wish to make our positions clear.  

Specifically, we acknowledge:

A) That masks are an effective way to slow the spread of infectious respiratory diseases including SARS-CoV-2. Thus, we fully support university, state and federal guidance on mask-wearing. Since department and university policies require everyone (students, staff, faculty and visitors) to wear masks at all times in public spaces on campus — especially indoors — it is important for faculty to model appropriate behavior for our students, irrespective of any personal belief we may have about these policies.

B) That the use of terms such as “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus” to describe SARS-CoV-2 is inflammatory and offensive to members of our community. The use of such terms has been specifically discouraged by the World Health Organization. Given the rising violence and discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, it is important to communicate in ways that do not promote division, discrimination, and racism. This is especially important for university employees, who because of their positions often have a voice that is heard more clearly than others.

C) That there is an inherent power imbalance between students and faculty/staff. We are committed to providing ways for students to express their discomfort with the behavior or language of any member of our community without fear of retaliation.

D) That the burden of the pandemic has been felt unequally and that members of our community have lost friends and loved ones. Our words about it should be rooted in respect for the experiences of others.

We are committed to providing all our students the opportunity to achieve their goals in a supportive community and an atmosphere of love, empathy and respect. 

Resources:

Analysis of the effectiveness of masking

CDC Science Brief on masking

WHO Statement on naming of diseases

Media Article about naming of viruses

American Journal of Public Health article on the importance of naming SARS-CoV-2

Signed:

Nikki Adams, Professor

Praveen Babu, Lecturer

Tim Bean, Assistant Professor

Jason Blank, Associate Professor

Jamie Bunting, Lecturer

Sandi Clement, Associate Professor

Jean Davidson, Assistant Professor

Heather DeBruhl, Lecturer

Pat M. Fidopiastis, Professor

Grace Goschke, Lecturer

Melanie Gutierrez, Administrative Analyst / Specialist

Alice Hamrick, Staff

Ed Himelblau, Professor

Elena Keeling, Professor

Christopher L. Kitts, Professor Emeritus

Charles Knight, Professor

Gita Kolluru, Professor

Alexis Pasulka, Assistant Professor

John Perrine, Professor

Nishi Rajakaruna, Associate Professor

Benjamin Ruttenberg, Associate Professor

Christy Strand, Professor

Emily Taylor, Professor

Lars Tomanek, Professor

Francis Villablanca, Professor

Larisa Vredevoe, Professor

Candace Winstead, Professor

Alejandra Yep, Associate Professor

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