Duke University Professor Steps Down After Complaint About Chinese Speakers on Campus

Duke University
Megan Lee Neely, an assistant professor and director of graduate studies at Duke University, has stepped down after a controversy surrounding an email she sent to students on Friday. In the email, Neely aired complaints from two unnamed teachers over Chinese students speaking Chinese, demanding that they speak English on campus. 

"Both faculty members picked out a small group of first year students who they observed speaking Chinese (in their words, VERY LOUDLY) in the student lounge," said Neely in the email. "They wanted to write down the names so they could remember them if the students ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a master’s project.

"They were disappointed that the 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 continued. 

Neely concluded with a warning to students to "PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak Chinese in the building," and urged the students to "commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in Hock (Hock Plaza, a property at the campus) or any other professional setting."

The email was circulated on social media, where a second, similar note from Neely, from early 2018, also made the rounds.

The response was swift, with the Dean of Duke's School of Medicine, Mary E. Klotman, sending an email of her own, apologizing for Neely's email, and clarifying that there is no requirement to speak a specific language on campus.

"To be clear: there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse or communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom. And your privacy will always be protected," said Klotman.

Klotman also added, "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."

While she has been removed from the directorship, she is still an assistant professor. A full review of the School of Medicine program is underway according to the Duke Chronicle.

Image by Tjcalboy [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

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