MIZZOU Professor Steps in It on First Day of Class

(Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
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University Missouri interim chancellor Hank Foley, right, answers questions during a news conference in Columbia, Mo., regarding charges filed against assistant communications professor Melissa Click, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Click was charged Monday with misdemeanor assault linked to her run-in with student journalists during campus protests last November, drawing a curator’s renewed calls for her ouster. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Well, MIZZOU is trending again. Yesterday was the university’s first day of classes (many, if not most, of which are being held online for the time being). Associate teaching professor Joel Poor was conducting introductions with his marketing class, inviting students to state where they were from.

When a student stated he was from China, and then further specified Wuhan, Poor made an offhand comment which some contend was xenophobic. A Twitter account (“Still Concerned”) – established last month – tweeted out the exchange:

The account went further and called for Poor’s firing.

Following the incident, the university acknowledged the tweet and confirmed they had submitted the video to the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX. Poor then sent an e-mail apologizing for the comment, as reported by the Columbia Missourian:

“To anyone who was offended by my comments, I sincerely apologize,” Poor said. “I have nothing but respect and love for the Chinese people and especially my students from China.”


Last night, Poor sent a message to his students:

“Today I was relieved of teaching duties, I apologize for any disruption this might cause you.”

So there you have it.

Let me get something out of the way up front: I don’t think Poor should have made that comment. I think it was somewhat insensitive (keep in mind, the people of Wuhan suffered through the virus, too) and, coming from a professor to students on the very first day of class, with the power dynamic that entails, inappropriate for that setting.

Moreover, given that this is 2020 and the woke mob is thirsty — particularly in the halls of academia — making such a comment on a recorded video conference call was extraordinarily unwise. Professor Poor did not already know his audience — these were introductions on the first day of class — and he had no way to gauge how they would receive the joke. And all it takes is one observer to take/find offense and we’re off to the races. I could be wrong but it almost seemed like Poor hesitated for just a moment before making the crack. I bet he wishes anything he could rewind.

That said, I disagree with his being fired, forced to resigned, or even suspended. If Susie were Queen of the World, here’s how she would handle it (just in case you’re wondering): Call the Prof in and discuss it with him. Point out to him the problem with what was said and note it in his personnel file. Encourage him to use the incident as a “teaching moment” with his class. This was an upper-level Marketing class. What a fascinating discussion one might have by opening up the floor to a frank and thoughtful conversation regarding language and messaging and what that means in 2020 — the positive and negative repercussions that can come from even a single sentence (or word) and how it’s all amplified via social media.


I believe in forgiveness and grace. I believe in calling it out when someone messes up — or even inadvertently causes offense or discomfort (by letting them know, “Hey, that bothers me and here’s why,” not by taking a torch — literal or figurative — to their home or livelihood.) I believe in listening to and accepting sincere apologies. And I believe in giving second chances.

By many accounts, Professor Poor is a much-beloved instructor. There is already a Change.org Petition set up to keep his job. The Petition reads:

On Monday August 24, 2020 long time and well respected Trulaske College of Business Professor Joel Poor was fired from teaching for a tasteless comment made to a student during a zoom lecture. While there is no room for this in the classroom, Joel gave an honest apology to his students (mind you the student expressed that he was not offended by the comment and took it as it was meant, a joke). We believe that one infraction does not justify losing one of Trulaske Business schools most important assets. Please give your signature if you believe Professor Poor deserves a second chance, because as a student that has been mentored by Joel for more than 2 years I certainly don’t. Thank you.

Thus far, it has over 3,300 signatures.

Other students have made a point to share the full video of the exchange which lends credence to the notion that, while the joke may have been ill-advised, this professor is clearly not a xenophobe:


What will the ultimate outcome be? We’ll keep you posted.


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