Duke Professor’s ‘No to Chinese Language’ Email Backfires
Megan Neely, an assistant professor and director of graduate studies at the university’s biostatistics department, sent an email to students on Friday telling them to speak English at all times and threatening international students with consequences if they speak Chinese.
“They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand,” Neely wrote in the email.
“To international students, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak in Chinese in the building.”
One professor from Duke University sent out an email asking Chinese students not to speak Chinese in school building. pic.twitter.com/6xGkIeScJo
— Hua Sirui 华思睿 (@siruihua) January 26, 2019
The incident caused outrage among many students who termed it as racist after screenshots of the email went viral on various social media platforms.
Good. But I hope they do a thorough investigation of the faculty in the biostats department at Duke, because Dr Neely was repeating racist, xenophobic comments brought to her by other staff members. There's more than one guilty party here, and students deserve the right to know. https://t.co/jQF5ANhZHH
— Elizabeth May (@_ElizabethMay) January 27, 2019
On Saturday, Mary Klotman, the school’s dean, apologized for the email and announced that Neely stepped down as the director. Klotman also announced a thorough review of the Masters of Biostatistics Program by Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).
“Dr. Neely has asked to step down as director of graduate studies for the master’s program effective immediately and will be replaced by an interim DGS to be named shortly,” Koltman wrote in a letter.
“There is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom.”
In a joint statement with the Duke International Association, the university’s Asian Student Association termed Neely’s behavior as “hypocritical” and “discriminatory”.
“This behavior is not only hypocritical—given Duke’s dependence on international students and faculty for their undergraduate and graduate programs, desire to present itself as a “global university”, and partnership with Duke Kunshan University—but also discriminatory,” the statement reads.
“It frighteningly recalls a racist and xenophobic past where Asiatic peoples were explicitly banned from this country and this university. And it reminds us of a present in which the movement to make English the official language of the US is thinly veiled anti-immigrant white supremacy.”
This is not the first time Neely has been involved in controversy. Earlier in 2018, in a similar email, she warned international students to refrain from speaking foreign languages, which could make getting research opportunities more difficult for them.