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Duke Official Steps Down After Telling Students Not To Speak Chinese

A director of graduate studies at Duke University has stepped down from her role after she sent an email telling students not to speak Chinese, suggesting that it is “impolite” and could have “unintended consequences.”

Megan Neely, of the Duke School of Medicine’s biostatistics master’s program, sent the email to first- and second-year graduate students on Friday after she said two faculty members complained to her about hearing Chinese spoken “very loudly” in the student lounge and study areas, Duke’s Chronicle newspaper first reported.

“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,” a bolded portion of Neely’s email stated.

Neely said her colleagues asked her for help identifying the students in case they ever applied for an internship or were interviewed by them.

“I encourage you to commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in Hock or any other professional setting,” she advised. Hock Plaza is where the school’s department of biostatistics is located, according to the department’s website.

I encourage you to commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in Hock or any other professional setting.

The medical school’s dean, Mary Klotman, confirmed Neely’s letter to students on Saturday and shared that Neely had resigned from her role. Klotman also informed students that the university’s Office of Institutional Equity will review the biostatistics master’s program “to recommend ways in which we can improve the learning environment for students from all backgrounds.”

“I understand that many of you felt hurt and angered by this message,” she said of Neely’s email. “To be clear: 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. And your privacy will always be protected.”

Screenshots of Neely’s email were shared on social media, leading to the surfacing of a similar email she allegedly sent to students in 2018. That second email’s authenticity could not be immediately confirmed by HuffPost. Neely and Duke representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, reportedly confirmed the emails’ authenticity to The Chronicle on Saturday night. The Chronicle also reported that Neely remains an assistant professor.

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