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But will she be fired? Duke graduate director resigns after telling students not to speak Chinese

Dr Megan Neely
Pictured, Duke University's Dr Megan Neely
Dr Megan Neely
Pictured, Duke University’s Dr Megan Neely

Dr Megan Neely: Duke graduate director resigns after telling students not to speak Chinese- social media backlash ensues. 

A Duke University professor has resigned following disconcert after demanding Chinese exchange students speak English, ‘100%’ of the time.

Dr Megan Neely stepped down as the director of graduate studies for the university’s medicine department Saturday after copies of an email she’d sent to students went viral on social media. 

In the email, Neely urged the students to refrain from speaking Chinese in order to ‘improve their English’, suggesting that doing so may lead to ‘unintended consequences’. 

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

In the email, sent to first and second year bio statistics master’s students, Neely said that two separate faculty members approached her with concerns over students speaking Chinese. Other teacher advocates explored how students could pursue the opportunity tobuy paper online with researchers to best deal with similar situations. 

‘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/study areas,’ the email reads. 

‘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,’ it continued.  

Neely continued by saying the faculty members asked for the names of the Chinese-speaking students to ‘remember them if the students ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a master’s project.’ 

‘To international students, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak in Chinese in the building,’ she said.  

A photo of the email was posted to Twitter Saturday morning, garnering nearly 6,000 retweets, 11,000 likes and major backlash against Neely. 

Petitions were immediately started online calling for her firing. 

Dr Megan Neely
Dr Megan Neely: shared tweet goes viral

Dr Megan Neely: But will she be fired? 

By Saturday evening, a statement by Mary E Klotman, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, said that Neely had asked to step down. 

‘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,’ it read. 

Klotman issued an apology letter to the students, adding that a thorough review of the master’s program is underway. 

‘There is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other,’ the statement read. ‘Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom.’ 

It appears this wasn’t the first discriminatory email Neely had sent to students. 

In a different email sent by Neely back in February 2018, she issued similar warnings to students speaking foreign languages in public spaces:

‘Bottom line: Continuing this practice may make it harder for you and future international students to get research opportunities while in the program. Please keep these potential downstream effects in mind when you choose to or choose not to speak in English outside of the classroom.’

In the above email, Neely once again cited unnamed staff members ‘the Chair of the Department’ and ‘many faculty’ as the source of the complaints.

It’s unclear who the two faculty members are, or if they existed to begin with. 

According to The Chronicle, Neely still remains as an assistant professor at Duke University. But for how long?