Mizzou Professor Says He Was 'Relieved of Teaching Duties' After Wuhan Comment

University officials launched an investigation after professor Joel Poor was accused of making xenophobic, racist comments during a Zoom lecture.


Image via Getty/Michael B. Thomas


A University of Missouri professor faced backlash this week over what many have called a racist and xenophobic comment.

According to the the Columbia Missourian, the remark was made Monday while Joel Poor, an associate professor for the Trulaske College of Business, was leading a marketing class via Zoom. At some point during the lecture, Poor asked if any of the students were outside the United States; one person informed the professor he was in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus emerged back in 2019.

"Wuhan? Let me get my mask on. Hold on," he said with a laugh.

A clip of Poor's comments was later shared on social media, prompting the university to launch an investigation.

On Monday night, Poor sent the following message to his students: "Today I was relieved of teaching duties, I apologize for any disruption this might cause you."

@Mizzou, fire professor Joel Poor for his racist and xenophobic comments that he delivered to his Marketing 3000 class today. pic.twitter.com/GcKnV6drX7

— #StillConcerned (@MIZ_ISC_2020) August 24, 2020

Mizzou spokesperson Christian Basi told the Columbia Missourian that Poor was still employed at the school, but declined to provide any more details because it was "a personnel issue."

"When university officials became aware of the incident, it was referred to the Office for Civil Rights & Title IX, which initiated an investigation," Basi said.

According to the Columbia Missourian, Poor explained in an email that the Wuhan comment was meant as a joke. 

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

The controversy drew mixed reactions among Twitter users, with some calling for Poor's termination, while others stating his comment was blown out of proportion.

You can read some of the reactions below.

he ruined his own career by making that remark. it was totally unprofessional and in bad taste i don’t care if it was a joke or not.

— no (@largeorangehic) August 24, 2020

Joel Poor shouldn’t have been relieved. My roommate was in his Zoom meeting while I sat next to her; he was such a sweet soul, and even offered resources if the student ever needed a place to stay. He made a shitty remark — Ok. This should’ve just been an educational moment.

— ⋆ 𝒢 ⋆ (@gracelizac) August 25, 2020

Another fine example of Mizzou bending to public pressure at the expense of a quality education. Joel Poor was a superb teacher who is another victim of cancel culture. @MizzouBusiness @mizzoudiversity @mizzoumarketing

— Jordan Duenckel (@JDuenckel) August 25, 2020

Anyone who has taken a class with Joel Poor knows this is not the first time he’s said something sexist, racist and/or inappropriate. He would often make remarks about his sex life during class that were extremely uncomfortable and unrelated to the curriculum he teaches.

— Morgan Keith (@bymorgankeith) August 24, 2020

This might be an uninformed take, but I don’t think Joel Poor should’ve been fired. What he said should have been punished but could’ve been a teachable moment, given that his actions fail to indicate malicious intent

— Eli Pearce (@eli_pearce) August 25, 2020

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