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University Registrar apologises for racist incident in MATH1021 lecture

The University Registrar has apologised for a lecture in which derogatory comments were targeted at Chinese students.

The University Registrar has issued an apology to MATH1021 students after a handful of attendees posted racist comments against Chinese students via chat in a Zoom lecture.

Lecture attendees sought to harass students by attempting to associate Chinese citizenship with the pandemic, a racist narrative that has been criticised globally since the start of 2020.

Several Zoom accounts sent messages such as “China gov make [sic] this Cov-19” and “Wuhan-covid”. Some accounts are confirmed to have been made under false identities. 

In an email distributed to all MATH1021 students, Associate Professor and University Registrar Peter McCallum apologised to the student community. 

“I would like to apologise to all students, and particularly students who may have felt the target of these comments, that the university’s IT infrastructure was used in this way.” McCallum said. 

Following preliminary investigations, the University of Sydney has found that some accounts deliberately used misleading and false names in order to escape identification. 

“The settings on the [Zoom] link were well set up by the coordinator, Professor Myerscough, and we have already identified that some false identities were used,” McCallum said.   

In response to the incident, SRC President Lauren Lancaster met with Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Life) Susanna Scarparo, the University Registrar to file a joint motion with Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) to launch an investigation. 

She issued a statement in her President’s report, reaffirming the SRC’s commitment to anti-racism and emphasised a zero tolerance policy towards cyberbullying and trolling.

“I want to reiterate that the SRC is committed to anti-racist organising across campus and racist cyberbullying/trolling is entirely unacceptable,” Lancaster said.

“We cannot commit to radical political organising without recognising that casual and targeted racism exists and continues to alienate members of the student body.”

This follows two years in which civil organisations have raised alarms over increasing racism towards Chinese and Asian communities in the wake of COVID-19 and heightened tensions between the Australian and Chinese governments. 

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