Duke Professor's Email to Chinese Students Causes Uproar

She told them not to speak own language during breaks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2019 1:37 AM CST

(Newser) – Duke students are as free as anybody else in America to speak whatever language they want on their own time, the university stressed after a professor's email to international students caused an uproar. Megan Neely told biostatistics students Friday there had been complaints from faculty members about students speaking Chinese "very loudly" in break areas, the New York Times reports. She said faculty members were disappointed that the students weren't "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." She urged them to "commit to using English 100%" of the time when in the building, and warned that using their native language could have "unintended consequences" for their careers.

Amid an outcry, it emerged that Neely had sent a similar letter to students in February 2018. Dr. Mary E. Klotman, dean of Duke's medical school, told students Saturday that Neely had stepped down as director of graduate studies for the Master of Biostatistics program. Around 36 of 54 students in the program are Chinese, as are 10 of 50 faculty members, the Times notes. "To be clear: There is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other," Klotman told students feeling "hurt and angered" by Neely's email. Neely, who remains on the faculty as an assistant professor of biostatistics, acknowledged Saturday that the email was "clearly in error" and apologized for any hurt she had caused, the Chronicle reports. (Last year, a white Yale student called the police on a napping black student.)

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