Amid the ongoing coronavirus news, the University of California-Berkeley’s University Health Services got into hot water when a social media post made the news. On its Instagram account, the university said that a “common” reaction to the coronavirus news was xenophobia.
The infographic, which has since been deleted, claimed that “normal reactions” to the coronavirus news include anxiety, worry, panic, and xenophobia. Further elaborating on xenophobia, the Instagram post said it meant that someone harbors “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about those feelings.”
The social media post was shared on Twitter and users expressed outrage at the normalization of xenophobia as a common reaction to coronavirus news. The university apologized and said, “We apologize for our recent post on managing anxiety around Coronavirus. We regret any misunderstanding it may have caused and have updated the language in our materials.” The post was deleted at around that point in time.
The coronavirus is a flu-like virus which has infected tens of thousands in China and multiple foreign nationals around the world, in countries such as the United States, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, and Hong Kong. Quarantines are in effect in foreign countries where people tested positive for the coronavirus, with cruise line companies barring customers with Chinese passports from boarding their ships. People are quarantined on cruise ships, on an American airbase in California after being flown in from China, in addition to the Wuhan province where the virus began. Multiple countries, including the United States, are conducting health screenings for the virus at their airports.
UC-Berkeley’s misleading infographic may have been deleted, but it is yet another example of academic groupthink at work. To those outside of the academic bubble, the post would most likely not have been published, but it somehow made it past the editing and approval processes at UC-Berkeley. It should be a lesson for academics and administrators, but time will tell.