UNM physics professor’s Facebook picture stirs controversy

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Students at the University of New Mexico are upset after seeing a physics professor post what they call an inappropriate image on his Facebook profile.

“I was just really surprised and a little bit disappointed seeing how he was a professor at UNM,” said UNM student Helen Zhao. UNM students are demanding an apology and an explanation after coming across this image on a physics professor’s Facebook page.

“The image, that profile image is a vilification of the people in China and a byproduct of the vilification of those people has been racism and xenophobic incidents on campus that are directed to the Asian community,” said UNM student Jacob Olaguir.

UNM’s website shows Doug Fields has taught physics there for many years and when you click his ‘personal’ tab on his faculty page, it redirects to his Facebook page, which shows a Winnie the Pooh figure eating a bat with chopsticks with the language “Wuhan Plague” on it. The Winnie the Pooh character is a reference to Chinese censorship.

Students said they’re disappointed in seeing a tenured professor post this, even after the Albuquerque Asian American community expressed concern for targeted harassment about the coronavirus a few months ago when an Asian restaurant was vandalized and another restaurant blamed the Chinese government for its closure.

“Any type of anti-Asian bias or discrimination is both wrong and extremely dangerous right now,” said Zhao. “Words, actions and images like these unfairly target the Asian community and make people feel unwelcome or unsafe in a place they’re supposed to feel a sense of community and belonging.”

Students hope UNM will create an Asian resource center on campus to advocate for the Asian community. KRQE News 13 reached out to the professor but did not hear back.

UNM’s President Garnett Stokes said in a statement:

UNM is strongly dedicated to ensuring that our campus continues to uphold its values of equity and inclusion. We must be vigilant in rejecting bias in our community – physical or virtual. Valuing inclusivity means treating everyone with respect, both in their presence and in their absence.

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