San Diego Law Professor Investigated After Criticizing Chinese Communist Government
A visitor watches an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Beijing Capital Museum on March 9, 2021 in Beijing, China.
Lu Xu/VCG via Getty Images

A law professor at the University of San Diego is under investigation after criticizing China’s communist government in a blog post.

The professor, Tom Smith, made clear references to the Chinese government, but students and faculty interpreted his remarks as attacks on Chinese people, specifically, University of California-Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh wrote.

Smith began his blog post with a quotation from a Wall Street Journal opinion article written by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., a member of the paper’s editorial board. Smith quoted the following:

Alas, the World Health Organization mission is turning into a case of disaster foretold. A credible inquiry requires China’s full cooperation, not just cooperation with those lines of inquiry that are consistent with its own propaganda. And couldn’t somebody have put Peter Daszak, team member from New York City’s EcoHealth Alliance, under permanent mouth quarantine?

To insist that human encroachment on nature is the great risk tells us nothing about what happened in this particular case. To insist, as he did on NPR, that China’s manhandling of the delegation with greeters in full hazmat garb, its forcing of the visitors into 14-day quarantine, was merely testament to China’s Covid rigor overlooks another possibility: China was seeking to intimidate and dominate the investigators because of the colossal importance it places on controlling the virus narrative.

Smith then wrote a single paragraph of commentary regarding the information from Jenkins:

If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle. At least Peter Daszak has good personal and financial reasons, not to mention reasons of career preservation, for advancing what he must know is a facially implausible thesis. But whatever. Go Science!

His sentence about “an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle” was misinterpreted – perhaps intentionally – to be a reference to the Chinese people, when it was clearly a reference to the Chinese government’s propaganda. Due to this misinterpretation, Smith added an update that reads: “It appears that some people are interpreting my reference to ‘Chinese cock swaddle,’ as a reference to an ethnic group. That is a misinterpretation. To be clear, I was referring to the Chinese government.”

As law professor William Jacobson reported at his news website Legal Insurrection, law students at USD launched a petition demanding Smith apologize for his comments, claiming his blog post caused them harm. The petition was written by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, which claimed Smith’s blog post had caused “a greater, adverse impact on your own students at USD and the community at large.” Another student petition demanded Smith be fired for his personal blog post.

The USD law school released a statement announcing its investigation into Smith:

The University of San Diego School of Law is aware of the blog post of the faculty member.

While the blog is not hosted by the University of San Diego, these forms of bias, wherever they occur, have an adverse impact on our community. It is especially concerning when the disparaging language comes from a member of our community. A core value of the University of San Diego School of Law is that all members of the community must be treated with dignity and respect. University policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin, among other categories.

We have received formal complaints relating to the faculty member’s conduct, and in accordance with university procedures, there will be a process to review whether university or law school policies have been violated.

The dean of the law school also sent a message to the community regarding Smith’s “offensive language” and misrepresenting his comment as being against “people from China.”

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