TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 25:  Arizona State on a chair
Arizona State on a chair before the college basketball game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils on January 25, 2020 at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
  • Asian students at Arizona State University told Business Insider that they've been treated differently since a case of the coronavirus, which spread from China, was confirmed at the university.
  • ASU's large population of international students from China have been especially impacted, one student said.
  • From jokes to sitting away from Asian students in class, students said that the case has changed dynamics on campus.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Since a case of the coronavirus - which spread from Wuhan, China - was confirmed at Arizona State University, Asian students there have faced jokes, stares, and isolation on campus, students told Business Insider

"It's hysteria," said one freshman, who studies life sciences and lives in a dorm on campus, whose name is not being published to protect her privacy. She said there'es been a noticeable shift in dynamics on campus between Asian and non-Asian students.

"I cough in class and everybody looks at me," she said. "I'm paranoid of coughing."

The case was confirmed in an email sent to students by ASU officials on Sunday, who told students, faculty, and staff that the person with the virus does not live on campus and is being isolated to keep the virus from spreading. University officials declined to specify if the impacted individual was a student.

Students were critical of the university's response and some asked for classes to be cancelled, for fear that they could catch the virus in class. A petition to university officials asking for more safety measures and more information gained over 20,000 signatures.

The freshman who spoke to Business Insider said there was already a social and cultural divide between the large population of international students from China at ASU and the rest of the student body, but that the virus "just made it more obvious."

She said that she feels bad for the way Chinese students are being treated and that "most people are ignoring it but when I do hear stuff it does bother me."

In one of her classes, she said students avoided a Chinese teaching assistant, even though that assistant was the most qualified.

"In my own classes, nobody wants to sit next to me until there are no seats left," said the freshman, who is Vietnamese.

An ASU spokesperson said in a statement that "we greatly value our student population from China and want them to feel at home in the ASU community as [we] do for students from any other country."

A senior at ASU who is Chinese and from Arizona said that even though it bothers her when people "racially profile" anyone who looks Asian, it's still "kinda funny" when people react differently.

"There is humour in the way that some of these people react to a sniffle or cough," she said in a Facebook message.

She said if she's on campus and coughs or sneezes, "people (but mostly caucasians) kinda look at me a second longer, I guess kind of questioning if I'm infected."

Eric, a freshman who lives on campus, said that people have asked about his wellbeing because he traveled to Beijing over winter break, though he didn't go near Wuhan, which is over 700 miles (1,126 kilometres) away from Beijing.

Eric said in a Facebook message that he hasn't noticed people giving him "weird looks" but that he wouldn't blame them if they did.

"Even I'm more paranoid and high-key more cautious around people," he said, adding that he avoids hugging or shaking hands with people and uses hand sanitiser often.

"I guess I'll find out if more people will end up giving me looks or actively avoiding me just because of my East Asian appearance, despite having been born in the US and grown up here," he said.

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