Social Stigmatization

Auburn employees should avoid stigmatizing or generalizing about coronavirus in the workplace. You should avoid making assumptions about individuals who you believe may or may not have been exposed to the virus.

There have been individuals at colleges and universities who reported encountering discrimination and harassment due to biased assumptions and overreactions. It is understandable to feel uncertain or anxious during a public health crisis. However, it is also important to remember not to make assumptions about others’ perceived symptoms, travel history or identity.

For employees who are looking for support, the Employee Assistance Program is a resource available to help employees through stressful situations and events. 

What should I do if I witness or experience harassment based on discrimination due to the coronavirus, or believe that I am being treated unfairly, discriminated against or harassed due to fears about the coronavirus outbreak?

Auburn University is committed to fostering an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion. While the spread of disease may cause fear and uncertainty, we reject discrimination and any speech or action that would be biased toward any member of our campus community.

It is wrong to assume that because of someone’s perceived country or region of origin they have come in contact with or have contracted the new coronavirus. If you or someone you know has experienced harassment based on discrimination, contact The Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) at 334-844-4794. 

Reducing Stigma (taken from the Centers for Disease Control)

Stigma is discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation. Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths.

No single person or group of people are more likely than others to spread COVID-19. Public health emergencies, such as this pandemic, are stressful times for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma, which is negative attitudes and beliefs toward people, places, or things.

Stigma can lead to labeling, stereotyping, discrimination and other negative behaviors toward others. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people link a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population, community, or nationality. Stigma can also happen after a person has recovered from COVID-19 or been released from home isolation or quarantine.

Some groups of people who may experience stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Certain racial and ethnic minority groups, including Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and black or African Americans;
  • People who tested positive for COVID-19, have recovered from being sick with COVID-19, or were released from COVID-19 quarantine;
  • Emergency responders or healthcare providers;
  • Other frontline workers, such as grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, or farm and food processing plant workers;
  • People who have disabilities or developmental or behavioral disorders who may have difficulty following recommendations;
  • People who have underlying health conditions that cause a cough;
  • People living in congregate (group) settings, such as people experiencing homelessness.


Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger toward ordinary people instead of focusing on the disease that is causing the problem. Stigma can also make people more likely to hide symptoms or illness, keep them from seeking health care immediately, and prevent individuals from adopting healthy behaviors. This means that stigma can make it more difficult to control the spread of an outbreak.

Last updated: 03/08/2021